How are neural circuits assembled to perform specific computations? An excellent model system to address this question is the mammalian retina, where a diverse set of neural circuits are wired with remarkable precision and intricacy to extract ethologically relevant features such as color, contrast and motion from the visual scene. Each retinal circuit utilizes distinct sets of neuronal cell types and conveys the processed visual information to higher brain center(s) by a specific type of retinal ganglion cells.
We are interested in the synaptic and circuit basis of neural computations in the retina. Our current research is focused on understanding the developmental and adult patterns of synaptic connections underlying visual motion detection. We perform functional neural circuit analysis by leveraging the increasing repertoire of experimental and computational tools to target and manipulate the activation of specific circuit components. Our studies aim to provide insights into the neural mechanisms of sensory processing in naturalistic environments, and also to illuminate general principles of neural computations in the brain.
Motion detection by starburst amacrine cell dendrites. Multiphoton calcium imaging of starburst cell distal dendrites during motion stimulation (Chen et al, eLife 2016).