Flexible routing of information through specialized networks in the brain
I am fascinated by how our higher-cognitive functions are supported by the biology of our nervous system. My research focuses on how information flows through the different specialized networks in the brain and how information can be flexibly routed through different areas depending on task requirements. Specifically, I ask the question how information is passed between areas and how circuits are dynamically configured such that the same neuron (e.g., motor neuron) can be functionally connected to a different source of information (e.g., visually selective neuron). Such flexible communication allows the multiple specialized brain areas (e.g. motor and visual cortex) to connect on a global scale and leads to the high level of cognitive flexibility observed in primate behavior. Understanding how the flow of information can change in the healthy brain will lead to insights about the pathophysiology underlying maladaptive behavior (e.g. autism, attention deficit, and dementias characterized by perseveration) in which cognition is less flexible. I approach this question by combining computational modeling with behavioral experiments (incl. psychophysics), electrophysiology (incl. LFP, spikes), and causal manipulations (incl. optogenetics, pharmacology, and brain stimulation).