Our laboratory is developing a new generation of brain imaging methods that combine the specificity of electrophysiological and optical neural recording techniques with the noninvasiveness and whole-brain coverage of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). These innovative techniques will have potentially transformative significance in neuroscience, and some will have broader impact in biology and medicine. Our own long term goal is to apply “molecular fMRI” and related techniques to study neural mechanisms of behavior and cognition in alert animals and potentially humans.
Development of novel imaging technologies
Our research has included development of novel genetic, chemical, and device-based sensors for molecular targets in the nervous system, among them MRI probes for calcium and other ions, protein phosphorylation, and neurotransmitters. We have validated several probes in vitro, and are now using some of the agents for molecular neuroimaging studies in live animals. We continue to improve our technologies and expand the range of neural targets we can detect, using a mixture of protein and genetic engineering methods with more traditional chemical and physical approaches.
Probing neural systems at the mesoscale
In parallel with our development of molecular tools, we are interested in studying the dynamics of neural systems as they form and function at the whole-brain level. We use brain imaging methods largely in combination with other neural recording and perturbation techniques in rodents, but are expanding our efforts towards primates. We have a strong interest in combining new behavioral paradigms with functional imaging methods to study animal learning and analogs of cognition. We use both established and novel tools to probe multiple physiological signals, particularly in the context of reward signaling, somatosensory processing, and resting state activity.