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Angus Silver

Department of Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology

Synaptic transmission and neural computation

The brain uses information gathered from sensory input to build internal representations body and the surrounding world and to control behaviour. Sensory information is processed as it flows from the periphery through various neural networks in the brain. My lab works on how synapses, single cells and neural networks carry out the computations that underlie this information processing. We are particularly interested in the contribution of synapses, which are though to be one of the most important and elementary computational units in the brain. Synapses are highly dynamic and exhibit a wide range of behaviors over a range of timescales. These properties are determined by interactions between their molecular components. Our main goal is to identify new mechanisms at the synaptic and cellular level and to understand how they contribute to information processing at higher levels. We use classical electrophysiological methods together with state-of-the-art optical tools including 2-photon microscopy, confocal microscopy, high temporal resolution spot-confocal microscopy and photolysis (to release biologically active compounds) to investigate the computational properties of synapses, neurons and networks in the cerebellum and somatosensory cortex. These experimental approaches are combined with theoretical work aimed at modeling the anatomical and physiological properties of these brain structures. It is hoped that by studying the properties of brain function at various different levels, using a combination of experiments and modeling, we will be able to develop a mechanistic understanding that links molecular interactions to signal processing in the brain.


1) What synaptic computations are performed by the cerebellar glomerulus?

2) Synaptic integration in cortical neurons.

3) Examining microconnectivity in cortex.

4) Improving compartmental models of cerebellar cells.

5) Building a network model of the input layer of the cortex and examining the role of recurrent excitation. 


Saviane C & Silver RA  (2006)
Fast vesicle reloading and a large pool sustain high bandwidth transmission at a central synapse.
Nature 439(7079): 983-7
link to publication

Mitchell SJ & Silver RA  (2003)
Shunting inhibition modulates neuronal gain during synaptic excitation.
Neuron 38: 433-445
link to publication

Silver RA, Lübke J, Sakmann B & Feldmeyer D  (2003)
High probability uniquantal transmission at excitatory synapses in barrel cortex.
Science 302(5652): 1981-4
link to publication


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