Northwestern University

Fri 12:00 PM

"Exploring the brain’s navigation system with high-resolution imaging and virtual reality"

When: Friday, October 20, 2017
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM  

Where: Ward Building, 5-230, 303 E. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Donna Daviston   312.503.1687

Group: Department of Physiology Seminars

Category: Lectures & Meetings


The department of Physiology welcomes Daniel Dombeck, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, with the department of Neurobiology at Northwestern University, Evanston campus


The neurons that enable mammals to navigate and find their way to specific destinations have been extensively studied not only for their importance in understanding learning and memory processes, but for the remarkable correlation between their activity and the animal’s behavior. Place cells in the hippocampus, for example, are only active when the animal is at a specific location in its local environment while the grid cells of the entorhinal cortex are active at many specific locations (grid fields) over the entire environment, forming a regular grid-like structure. These cells are thought to be the main components of a cognitive map (a neural representation of space). Nearly all studies of these cells in behaving animals have been performed using extracellular electrodes that can record their firing properties (when and how often the cells fire action potentials), but these methods reveal little about the cellular and circuit mechanisms that underlie this firing. On the other hand, the firing mechanisms can be dissected and understood in reduced preparations (such as neuron cultures and brain slices) where access to the neurons and greater stability allows for the application of many optical, electrophysiology and genetic tools, but these conditions are potentially very different than the conditions in a behaving animal and thus it is unclear if and how the mechanisms discerned in reduced preparations relate to the mechanisms at work during behavior. In order to gain a mechanistic understanding of the firing properties of navigation related neurons during behavior, the methods that currently are used to study these neurons in reduced preparations must be applied to the same neurons in behaving animals. I will discuss techniques that allow us to perform cellular and subcellular resolution imaging of neuronal activity in mice navigating in virtual reality environments and recent results from imaging place cells. I will describe activity patterns that we have observed in hippocampal place cell dendrites and the implications for how associative Hebbian learning may take place during behavior. ​

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