A selection of projects available across SenSyT affiliated Laboratories:
Matteo Carandini (Institute of Ophthalmology)
Why are some mice smarter than others? We have trained tens of mice in a simple task involving perceptual decisions based on vision (Burgess et al, bioRxiv, 2016). These mice are genetically almost identical, yet some learn the task sooner, some later. Some do it better, some get distracted. Some do it quicker, some slower. What difference in brain activity explains this variability in “intelligence”? Possible project: Analyze behavioral data from tens of mice, and see if there are general correlations between the ability of mice to learn the task, discriminate contrasts, respond quickly, perform with few distractions, and so on. If so, define a factor “g” for mice as Pearson did for humans. For more information: See the book by our colleague John Duncan in Cambridge, titled How intelligence happens, where proposes that the cause for differences in “g” lies in the prefrontal cortex. This project is appropriate for: students with strong quantitative backgrounds, and ability to program in Matlab and/or Python.
Carr (Institute of Ophthalmology)
My research focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind ophthalmic disease. We are creating pluripotent stem cells from patients with macular disease and differentiating them into retinal pigment epithelium and neural retinal cells. These cells can then be used as platforms to study the molecular mechanisms behind disease, to test potential drug therapies and to develop personalised medicine approaches.
Daniel Bendor (Dept of Experimental Psychology)
My lab focuses on understanding the neuronal substrates of perception and memory. We use a combination of large-scale electrophysiological recording methods and molecular-genetic tools in behaving rodents to examine 1) how neurones encode complex sounds in auditory cortex, and 2) how auditory information is stored into memory by interactions between auditory cortex and the hippocampus during sleep.
Marcus Fruttiger (Institute of Ophthalmology)
Insufficient understanding of human disease mechanisms often
hampers the translation of basic, biological insights into therapeutic
approaches. Therefore, a major approach in my lab is to explore the pathobiological
basis in human eye diseases (such as diabetic retinopathy and macular
telangiectasia) by using postmortem eye tissue from patients. Linking their
clinical imaging data with immunohistochemistry (visualising the distribution
of specific cell populations or biochemicals) can be a powerful approach to
better understand the mechanisms in human eye disease.
Jennifer Linden (Ear Institute):
The aim of work in the Linden Lab is to understand the neural mechanisms of listening in difficult sound environments, and how those mechanisms go awry in conditions such as auditory processing disorder, tinnitus and schizophrenia. We use neurophysiological recording methods in combination with computational modelling, histological analysis, optogenetic techniques and behavioural testing, to investigate auditory cortical and thalamic function in normal mice and in mouse models of human brain disorders.
Sam Solomon (Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience):
Our laboratory uses electrophysiological recordings and behavioural measurements to understand how visual signals are passed from the eye to the rest of the brain.We are particularly interested in how the different parallel pathways convey signals that are important for behaviour, how these signals are modulated by environmental context, and how simple decisions are made on the basis of these signals. We explore this in rodent and human models of vision. Understanding how retinal signals are used to drive behaviour is important for understanding normal behaviour, but also for developing the next generation of augmented visual systems, that may help behaviour during and after retinal degeneration.
Maria Chait (Ear Institute):
My lab is employing brain imaging and behavioural methods to understand how listeners use sound information to understand, and efficiently interact with their surroundings. The work is motivated by the conviction that that improving our understanding of the normal hearing brain is crucial for advancing hearing aid, human-computer interface and ‘augmented hearing’ technologies. It is also key to refining the manner in which we measure and evaluate the perceptual consequences of hearing impairment and the benefit obtained from hearing aids”
Glen Jeffery (Institute of Ophthalmology)
Our lab works on mitochondrial function and retinal ageing. This is important because of the very high energy demands of the outer retina. We are particularly interested in different photoreceptor types and how they use their mitochondria in health and disease.
Nick Lesica (Ear Institute):
My research group is working to understand the neural circuitry that underlies sensory perception. We perform experiments that allow us to observe how different sensory inputs are transformed into different neural activity patterns, and we build models to replicate the transformations that we observe. This work is essential not only to improve our understanding of the brain, but also for developing therapeutic and prosthetic approaches to replacing function that has been lost to trauma or disease, as well as for creating intelligent artificial systems for tasks such as speech recognition
Work in my laboratory explores the processes of neural adaptation which occur in response to retinal stress. On a therapeutic level, we are particularly interested in combining cellular and molecular approaches to restore useful vision following severe retinal degeneration. In addition to molecular and stem cell techniques, we also assess visual function in experimental animals using a broad range of tests, such as electroretinography, pupillometry and visually guided behaviour.