Exploring the Concert of Neuronal Activities

What is the fundamental question in brain research?

We want to understand cortical circuitry – to know how this one circuit, iterated over the entire neocortex, solves tactical, visual, and cognitive problems. The outcome of many laboratories’ research is that you have the same cell types, arranged in the same laminar structures, and having the same general connectivity with each other and with other areas of the brain. It is as if nature reiterated this one circuit for many different tasks. Our goal is to reverse engineer that circuit.

Physiologists routinely record activity from individual neurons or groups of neurons to assess what the neuronal population is doing. But we all become anatomists in the process of doing this because we need to know how the neurons are connected, too.

We can use conventional tracers or newer methodologies like viral expression of fluorescence protein, label large groups of anatomical connections. And, in the course of doing the single cell recordings, we can label single axons. As we start to look at pairs of neurons, we’re trying to figure out the connectivity between individual cell types, or two particular cells, and get back to what the real circuit is.

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