Plexon Research Spotlight

Farran Briggs, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator, University of Rochester


 

What type of neuroscience research do you do and what got you interested in this research? 

I study how visual information is encoded in the brain. I got interested in this type of research because I wanted to understand how connections between neurons give rise to sensory experience.

What challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?

There are a lot of challenges one faces throughout a career in academic research! Probably the most difficult step for me so far has been establishing myself as an early career independent investigator. Fortunately I was able to assemble an amazing team of graduate students, postdocs, and lab technicians and I attribute our success to them. There were daily challenges like overcoming noise in an electrophysiology rig and also larger challenges like obtaining funding. But throughout it all, the knowledge that my team were working as hard as possible to do good science and achieve our goals kept me and the rest of us going.

What new technique do you think will have the greatest impact on Neuroscience research and how do you plan to apply this to your research ?

Two emerging techniques have had a large impact on systems neuroscience and my research in particular. The first innovation is virus-mediated gene delivery, developed extensively by Ed Callaway and his colleagues. The second is optogenetics, pioneered by Karl Deisseroth and colleagues. Together, these tools enable researchers like me to selectively and reversibly manipulate the activity of specific sub-populations of neurons in order to understand their functional contribution. We employ these techniques to study the functional contribution of corticogeniculate feedback to visual perception.