The brain and body are in continuous dialog. Brain-body communication requires interoception, the perception of internal bodily signals. In other words, “How do I feel?”
Insular cortex (or 'insula') is the main cortical site that integrates external cues with diverse bodily signals. We seek to understand brain-body communication, and its role in regulating diverse behaviors, by focusing on cortical computations in insular cortex, which is a central node in the brain-body loop.
We use cellular and sub-cellular two-photon imaging and holography for optogenetic activation of specific activity patterns, together with circuit-mapping, circuit manipulation and computational approaches. We combine these approaches with measurements and manipulations of bodily physiology, in the context of goal-directed behaviors.
Major questions we ask:
- How are different physiological need states represented? How do we prioritize certain behaviors over others?
- How are different internal sensations organized? How are these representations used to guide behavioral choice?
- What is the role of the interoceptive cortex? How are cortical computations of current events, and predictions of future events, used to regulate bodily function?
Two-photon imaging of insular cortex activity:
Two-photon imaging of amygdala axons in insular cortex:
Our research is generously supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF), The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the International Development Research Center (IDRC), the Azrieli Foundation, the Israel Council for Higher Education, and the European Research Council (ERC).
Our lab is a member of the FENS-Kavli Network of Excellence.