Neural Circuits for Perception, Cognition, Emotion and Action in Zebrafish
Sensory perception and coordinated movement, as well as feelings, memories and motivation, arise from the bustling activity of thousands or millions of interconnected cells in the CNS. This network has evolved to generate adaptive behavior. In our research, we aim to understand, in the zebrafish model system, how neuronal circuits convert sensory inputs into behavioral responses and how this transformation is modulated by stress, mood and appetite.
To tackle these questions experimentally, we employ a diverse array of methods that take advantage of the optical transparency of zebrafish larvae. Using two-photon imaging, we monitor the activity of genetically targeted neurons as they process visual stimuli and generate motor commands. Optogenetic perturbation experiments are used to switch selected neurons on or off. This approach allows remote optical control of neuronal activity. Knowing the fundamental neural substrates of sensorimotor control allows us to study the "dial knobs" used by motivational and emotional systems to regulate the expression of behavior.