How does the brain build the circuits required to see?

Every thought, perception, and behavior depends upon neural circuits that were built and modified over the course of development. So, in order to understand how the brain works, we must understand how it is built.

 

The Smith Lab @ UMN uses advanced optical imaging techniques to investigate how large populations of neurons form the networks required to process visual information.

PROJECTS

Distributed functional networks in early development

Ongoing work has shown that large-scale distributed functional networks spanning millimeters exist in visual cortex well before they can be visually driven. We're working to determine the circuit mechanisms that give rise to these early networks and guide their refinement during development.


Intracortical inhibition and network formation

Network function critically depends on the structure and organization of inhibition within the network, but little is known about the organization of inhibition in developing cortical networks. Using novel viral tools, we’re measuring and manipulating inhibitory neurons in the early cortex.


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How does early spontaneous activity sculpt future perception?

Correlated activity in early development is a critical driver of circuit formation and future perceptual processing. We’re using cutting edge optical approaches to explore the causal role of early patterned network activity in visual processing, and determine whether abnormal spontaneous activity is a common theme linking neurodevelopmental disorders.