Copyright ©Eran Stark's lab 2017

In our lab we study the way neuronal networks give rise to cognitive functions. We aim to understand the local circuit mechanisms which underlie various cognitive functions, focusing on the level of neuronal spiking. In order to do so, we continuously develop new technologies which allow us to bi-directionally interface with the brain of free-behaving animals at the spatiotemporal resolution of a single neuron and of a single spike. Our methodological approach combines high-density extracellular recordings with multi-site and multi-color electrical, optogenetic and pharmacological manipulations of dozens to hundreds of neurons simultaneously in freely moving rodents while performing behavioral tasks. By recording, characterizing, and manipulating spiking activity of multiple neurons in real time, we "erase" and "write" individual spikes while observing the effect of these manipulations on behavior.

We believe our unique approach may help uncover the way the brain reads, writes, and codes information, thus shedding light on the neuronal mechanisms underlying cognition.

 

Our main projects are:

 

Spiking networks mechanisms underlying short term memory: while the mechanisms underlying intermediate and long term memory have been thoroughly studied in the past, the local circuit mechanisms that allow the brain to preserve information for short periods of times are less well-understood. We aim to uncover the spiking network mechanisms underlying short term memory by recording and manipulating neuronal activity in free-behaving animals while performing short term memory tasks.

 

Spiking mechanisms underlying phase precession in spatial navigation: a large body of research has demonstrated that in the hippocampus, two types of neuronal firing patterns are involved in the cognitive task of spatial navigation: place related spiking (rate coding) and theta phase precession (temporal coding). We aim to use our unique mechanistic approach in order to decipher the mechanisms underlying the generation of theta phase precession, as well as to uncover the relative contributions of rate and temporal codes to spatial navigation behavior.

Funded by an ERC Starting Grant, a CRCNS grant, a Bikura grant, the Rosetrees Trust and the ISF

A pyramidal cell in the human cortex, from the 1903 edition of Sobotta's histology, via Wikimedia Commons