May 29, 2015
The function of neural circuits is an emergent property that arises from the coordinated activity of large numbers of neurons. To capture this, we proposed launching a large-scale, international public effort, the Brain Activity Map Project, aimed at reconstructing the full record of neural activity across complete neural circuits. This project was the origin of the White House's BRAIN initiative. As our contribution to this initiative, I will review our efforts developing optical methods to perform two-photon imaging and photostimulation of neuronal populations using spatial light modulators, PSF engineering and a variety of optical, optogenetic and optochemical sensors. These techniques have single cell resolution and enable online experiments on populations of neurons, such as detecting spatiotemporal patterns of neuronal activity in primary visual cortex from awake behaving mice and optically interfering with them. These novel neurotechnologies could prove to be an invaluable step toward understanding fundamental and pathological brain processes.
Rafael Yuste is Professor of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience at Columbia University. He was born in Madrid, where he obtained his MD at the Universidad Autónoma. After a brief period in Sydney Brenner's laboratory in Cambridge, UK, he performed Ph.D. studies with Larry Katz in Torsten Wiesel’s laboratory at Rockefeller University and was a postdoctoral student of David Tank at Bell Labs. In 1996 he joined the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University, where he is Full Proefessor. In 2005 he became HHMI Investigator and co-director of the Kavli Institute for Brain Circuits and in 2014 Director of the Neurotechnology Center at Columbia. Yuste is interested in the structure and function of cortical circuits, the biophysical properties of dendritic spines and the pathophysiology of cortical diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia. To study these questions, Yuste has pioneered the development of imaging techniques, such as calcium imaging of neuronal circuits, two-photon imaging of spines and circuits, photostimulation using inorganic caged compounds, two-photon optogenetics and holographic spatial light modulation microscopy. Yuste has obtained many awards for his work, including New York City Mayor's, the Society for Neuroscience's Young Investigator and the NIH Director Pioneer Awards. Finally, he led the group of researchers who proposed the Brain Activity Map Project, recently sponsored by the White House’s BRAIN initiative.