The neuron is the basic element of brain function. However, neurons do not act singly – rather, they act through complex yet coherent neural circuits and networks, in order to generate sensory perceptions, behaviors, memories and thoughts. Although the behavioral output of different neural circuits are highly diverse, the principles of their structure and function is often surprisingly similar across different brain regions and animal species. This suggests that understanding the common fundamental building blocks of neural circuits will allow us to decipher the function of the brain as a whole. Such elucidation requires a multi-level approach and benefits greatly from cooperation between experimentalists and theorists.
Understanding the design and function of neural circuits requires the combination of diverse approaches. Integrating researchers from a variety of backgrounds such as biology, physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering, and psychology, we develop and apply novel approaches to study neural circuits. We combine extracellular and intracellular neural recording, imaging techniques spanning all scales from sub-cellular calcium imaging to whole-brain functional magnetic resonance imaging, and state-of-the-art anatomical, molecular and genomic techniques. These experimental approaches are complemented by theoretical studies of microcircuits and large-scale neuronal ensembles. The questions that are currently being addressed range from studies of active-sensing systems, through the neural codes of learning and memory, neural circuit plasticity and the neural basis of individual and group behaviors.