Our goal is to understand how internal states shape information processing in the brain. Instinctive behaviors such as parenting, aggression or mating are orchestrated by evolutionarily sculpted neural circuits. Considerable progress has been made in deconstructing these circuits, but is has also become clear that their function profoundly depends on the animal's current physiological – i.e. reproductive, metabolic etc. – state. We know little about the molecular, cellular and circuit-level mechanisms by which such states alter neural processing in vivo. Studying these mechanisms will provide us with crucial insights into brain function in health and disease. We will use a multidisciplinary approach, combining molecular and cellular biology, circuit neuroscience and behavioral analysis to address these questions.
Circuit logic of internal state changes
We will study how physiological states such as stress, sleep or hunger affect information processing at the level of entire circuits to instruct appropriate behavioral changes. We will make use of a broad range of state-of-the-art approaches (viral tracing, in vivo imaging / electrophysiology, optogenetics, behavioral assays) for this purpose.
We are developing novel genetic and viral tools to (1) visualize and interrogate neural circuits underlying instinctive behaviors and (2) determine how the function of these circuits is affected by internal states.