Microcircuit Interrogation with Neuron-scale Optogenetics

Synaptic communication in neuronal microcircuits underlies information processing within and between brain areas. Communication between circuit neurons is diverse and dynamic, necessitating spatiotemporally precise methods for investigating the functions and properties of individual neurons and synapses. In the CA1 region of the hippocampus, as in other cortical areas, interactions between excitatory and inhibitory neurons are essential to physiological function. In order to better understand the synaptic interactions between pyramidal neurons and GABAergic interneurons, we directly monitor and manipulate pre- and post-synaptic neurons at true microcircuit resolution – meaning monosynaptic interactions between pairs of identified neurons – using μLED-silicon probes chronically implanted in mice with cell-type specific expression of excitatory opsins. Using this approach, we investigated the organization and dynamics of monosynaptic connections between pyramidal neurons and interneurons, and directly tested the ability for these synapses to undergo spike-timing dependent plasticity.

Dan English, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech

Dr. English joined the Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience in August 2018. His research focuses on developing and utilizing electrophysiological and optogenetic methods to monitor and manipulate the activity of neural circuits in behaving animals, in order to better understand their physiological function.