Mechanisms of Synaptic Signaling and Computation

Mechanisms of Synaptic Signaling and Computation

Group leader:
Jason Christie

Research Overview

Our research focuses on the integrative features of the nervous system at both the cellular and network level using the cerebellum as a model system. Specifically, we seek to understand how the dynamics of information transfer and transformation within and between neurons is utilized by the cerebellum to control movement and encode a memory of motor learning. The cerebellum is highly amenable to this line of inquiry due to its simple circuitry, robust capacity for synaptic plasticity, and well-defined participation in adaptive behavior. By linking neuronal signaling and plasticity at the microcircuit level to changes in motor performance during movement, my lab’s discoveries will not only provide basic insight into cerebellar physiology and function but also contribute to therapeutic amelioration of movement disorders.

The experimental objectives of my lab revolve around several key questions: What are the organizing principles allowing cerebellar neurons to perform a diverse array of cellular computations? How do these principles relate to response characteristics within cerebellar networks permitting motor control? How do changes in these neuronal properties lead to modification of circuit function and behavior? We use a number of approaches to address these aims including both electrophysiology and two-photon imaging of cellular activity. These recording techniques are often combined with opto- and chemogenetics in transgenic mice during the performance of voluntary or reflexive motor behaviors.