Circuit Mechanisms of Behavior

Our brain faces a fundamental challenge: On one hand, it needs to constantly rewire itself to learn from experience. On the other hand, it also needs to consistently represent the external world to allow reliable action. In our group “Circuit mechanisms of Behavior” at the IEECR we study the stability and stabilization of the neural code in visual perception, learning, and memory during passive experience and active behavior.

We address the “stability-plasticity-conundrum” in the highly interconnected mouse visual system, retrosplenial cortex, and hippocampal formation on multiple scales – ranging from the synaptic to the circuit level. We focus on establishing novel densely quantified behavioral paradigms, emphasizing ethologically relevant and unrestrained behavior, longitudinal synapse- and circuit-level optophysiology, and the use and further development of both miniaturized and bench-top two-photon microscopy. Ultimately, we aim to better understand the circuit dynamics underlying adaptive but reliable visually guided behavior.

In our ongoing work we address three major research subjects: (i) The cell-autonomous and circuit-dependent determinants of representational stability in the visual system from retina to thalamus to visual cortex and back. (ii) The transformation and consolidation of spatial and multimodal sensory representations in the cortex, focusing primarily on hippocampal and thalamic interactions with the retrosplenial cortex during goal-directed behavior as well as spatial and contextual learning and memory. (iii) The modulation of pathway-specific sensory processing in the early visual system by active behavioral context (i.e., active vision during goal-directed orienting behavior).