Neural basis of visual perception
My lab is interested in understanding the neural basis of visual perception. We focus on the visual thalamus, the brain center directly connecting the eye to the visual cortex. Information selection has long been thought to occur primarily at late stages of visual processing, at the cortical level. However, selective convergence of diverse types of retinal axons and specific modulation of visual signals as determined by behavioral states, such as arousal and locomotion, were recently discovered in the visual thalamus, suggesting the visual thalamus plays an active role in shaping the flow of visual information. As selective information processing at earlier stages would efficiently streamline relevant information flow to downstream brain areas, it is crucial to understand how visual signals are transformed and enriched in the thalamus. Specifically, we are interested to determine what external and internal information are represented in distinct streams of inputs to the visual thalamus, how these inputs come together and work together, how visual sensitivity in the thalamus is dynamically sculpted by visual contexts and behavioral states, and how thalamic computation contributes to cortical visual processing. We approach these questions at the synaptic, neural circuit, and behavioral levels by integrating interdisciplinary methods, including two-photon imaging in awake head-restrained mice, circuit-specific tracing/manipulation, visually guided behavior, and computational analysis.