Areas of Expertise:
vision, neurobiology, circuit neuroscience, animal behavior
The questions we address are as follows. 1) What are the identity and function of neurons and molecules required for specific behaviors? This is neural circuit mapping. 2) What are individual sub-behaviors an animal uses and how do these sub-behaviors interact? We define, rigorously quantify, and model these sub-behaviors and their interactions with ideas from control theory, Bayesian inference and cognitive science. This is systems behavior. 3) We want to connect these levels of understanding into a mapping that lets us traverse from neuronal implementation to computational task and behavioral context in a rigorous way. Ultimately, we aim to link physiology with computation.
We utilize and develop cutting edge techniques from several disciplines. For example, we are known for building state-of-the-art virtual reality systems (Stowers et al., Computer 2014, Straw et al., Current Biology 2010), combining optogenetics, thermogenetics and computer vision (Bath et al., Nature Methods 2014) and using machine learning to study decision-making (Censi et al., PLOS Computational Biology, 2013). We have collaborated to develop novel physiological preparations (Maimon et al., Nature Neuroscience 2010). We focus on the visual behaviors of the fly Drosophila due to this animal's suitability for these goals but our work is of relevance for the behavior of all animals.