Basic Research – Anatomy

Comparative Anatomy

Our work is informed by the tenet that structure constrains function, and thus that an understanding of the anatomy of neural circuits can both drive development of hypotheses and support interpretation of data. We choose for each project the experimental methods that will deliver that data we need.

Current projects in the lab make use of:

  • tract tracing to visualize connections within and between visual areas, combined with immunohistochemistry to localize modulatory receptors on those connecting axons.
  • in situ hybridization to visualize mRNA expression, and immunohistochemistry to visualize protein expression and localization in order to define and identify subtypes of inhibitory neurons.

We collect data using light, epifluorescence, confocal, and electron microscopy and analyze those data using traditional statistics, stereology, and Bayesian approaches.

Current Questions

In this work, we use single label or multichannel (fluorescence) visualization of mRNA and/or protein expression to quantify populations of cells in the cortex.

We define these populations using a number of different classification schemes, including signaling molecules (e.g. GABA, dopamine, NPY, somatostatin) and calcium-binding protein expression (e.g. parvalbumin, calbindin). 

The questions we're interested in answering through this work include:

    • How similar are cortical circuits? Is there a canonical circuit that holds true across species and brain areas, or are different areas (such as the primary visual cortex, or the lateral intraparietal area) comprised of different relative mixtures of the same neurons, or even entirely different types of neurons?
    • What cell types can be identified in cortex? Do these types differ between species?
    • What signaling molecules tend to be expressed together within single neurons? How does this expression confer or constrain function?