The research activity of the Optical Approaches to Brain Function Laboratory focuses on the study of brain microcircuits and on the development of innovative optical methods to probe their function. We investigate how the activity of individual cells contribute to network dynamics, in which way population activity is regulated by specific cellular subpopulations and how the dysregulation of these processes may lead to pathological states of the brain as, for example, epilepsy.
To achieve these goals, we use state-of-the-art approaches including cell type-specific optogenetic manipulations, patch-clamp recordings and two-photon microscopy in vivo and in brain slice preparation. Given that what we know about brain networks is limited by current methodologies, we also develop new and more accurate tools for the investigation of cortical microcircuits. We use liquid crystals spatial light modulators and digital micromirror arrays to illuminate cellular networks with complex spatiotemporal light patterns. We aim to combine these novel approaches with genetically-encoded molecules to probe and manipulate neuronal circuits with high spatial specificity.