Neural circuits display complex spatiotemporal patterns of activity on the millisecond timescale during behaviour. Understanding how these activity patterns drive behaviour is a fundamental problem in neuroscience, and remains a major challenge due to the complexity of their spatiotemporal dynamics. The ability to manipulate activity in genetically defined sets of neurons on the millisecond timescale using optogenetics has provided a powerful new tool for making causal links between neuronal activity and behaviour. However, conventional optogenetic experiments typically involve simultaneous activation of a large fraction of a neural population, which is unphysiological. A novel approach was recently developed which combines simultaneous two-photon calcium imaging and two-photon targeted optogenetic photostimulation with the use of a spatial light modulator (SLM) to provide ‘all-optical’ readout and manipulation of the same neurons in vivo. This approach enables reading and writing of activity in neural circuits with single-cell resolution and single action potential precision during behaviour. Prof. Häusser describes the power, limitations and future potential of this approach; and discusses how it can be used to address many important problems in neuroscience, including transforming our search for the neural code and the links between neural circuit activity and behaviour.
Prof. Michael Häusser is a Professor of Neuroscience at University College London (UCL), UK and a Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow. He trained at the University of Oxford, the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg and the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. He established his own lab at UCL in 1997.
Prof. Häusser’s group is interested in understanding the cellular basis of neural computation, focusing on dendritic function and processing of synaptic input in relation to network activity in the intact brain.