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SCSB Lunch Series: Ian Wickersham, Ph.D.
March 3, 2017 | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Date: Friday, March 3, 2017
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Speaker: Ian Wickersham, Ph.D.
Affiliation: Principal Research Scientist, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, MIT
Talk Title: New circuit-specific and cell-type-specific techniques for targeting neurons
Abstract: Every region of the brain is a complex network of many different cell types, all playing unique functional roles and connected to each other following rules that are highly precise but very incompletely understood. Deciphering the organization and operation of such circuitry requires being able to selectively express the powerful genetic tools of modern neuroscience – fluorophores, opsins, activity indicators, and so on – in meaningful groups of neurons based on their synaptic connectivity or patterns of gene expression. This is the focus of my lab. In this talk I’ll describe two ongoing projects. The first is our work towards developing a completely nontoxic system for transducing neurons that are monosynaptically connected to a targeted neuronal population. Among other applications, this should allow the systematic study of how the activity patterns of neurons’ inputs are converted into their outputs, defined both by their instantaneous spiking activity as well as by the changes in their synaptic connectivity. The second project is our development of a system for cell-type-specific transgene expression in wild-type animals. This should result in a set of powerful new tools for manipulating defined neuronal types in nonhuman primate models, allowing a broad set of new experimental designs that are likely to yield major insights into the mechanisms of cognition and behavior as well as the biological bases of neurological disorders.