Our lab works at the interface between biophysics and neuroscience. Our central focus is synapses and we span the synaptic spectrum. At one end we study the molecular mechanisms of synaptic release and at the other end we study the electrical activity of neural circuits. This broad range of approaches creates a synergy, and makes my laboratory a vibrant environment for neuroscience research.
Our study of synaptic release employs extremely sensitive techniques to probe the release from single vesicles. Transmitter leaves a vesicle by flowing through narrow fusion pores that connect the vesicle interior and extracellular space. Measurements of fusion pores enable us to probe their structure and learn what controls their opening, closing, and expansion. By pushing the envelope in measuring minute signals as we perturb the molecular apparatus, we are elucidating the fundamental mechanisms of synaptic release.
At the other end of the spectrum we are advancing voltage imaging technology for the study of electrical activity in neural circuits. We develop tools to observe voltage changes in many neurons simultaneously in intact neural circuits. Synthetic voltage sensors reveal spatial patterns and test basic models of information storage and recall. Genetically-encoded voltage sensors can be used to target selected cell types, dissect different elements of a neuronal circuit, and study their connections. We are engineering new voltage sensors and developing hardware and software to capitalize on their high performance. In this way we are creating powerful new approaches that enable us to inquire how neural circuits encode, process, and store information.