| We are interested in understanding the neural basis of behavior: in particular, how humans
and other animals recognize patterns and form specific memories. In our laboratory, we
have focused our attention on the detection and recognition of pheromones--compounds which
modulate reproductive and aggressive behaviors--by the neurons of the vomeronasal system.
In this system, recognition and learning appear to be performed with relatively simple
neural circuitry; and the organism of choice--the mouse--is amenable to study by
physiological, behavioral, and molecular techniques. We study this system over a wide range
of scales, from the first molecular steps of pheromone detection up to behavioral tests
which probe the neural computations used to recognize blends of compounds.
specialty of the lab is recording and analyzing the simultaneous
activity of large
populations of neurons. In particular, we develop new optical
technologies for imaging three-dimensional volumes at high speed. Our
approach, called Objective-Coupled Planar Illumination (OCPI)
microscopy, uses a thin (~5 microns) sheet of light positioned in the
focal plane of the objective. This permits rapid (theoretically, ~10
microseconds/frame) and high signal-to-noise imaging. Because the light
sheet is coupled to the objective, the objective may be scanned to
perform three-dimensional imaging at high speeds. A further advantage
is that photodamage is greatly reduced because illumination is
restricted to the focal plane. The laboratory is investing in
extensions of this technique that range from correcting aberrations to
searching for new contrast modalities.