Brain function relies on spiking activity under control
of sensory inputs and stored brain states (memories).
However, spiking activity also depends on the
biophysical properties of neurons and their
connections (synapses), as well as whole brain
(behavioural and hormonal) states.
generation of spikes requires the movement of
charged ions. Thus, short- and long-term changes in
neural properties and connections can arise via
changes in spiking behaviour (e.g. via biophysical changes in ionic pores or ‘channels’ through cell membranes), or by dynamic changes in synapses.
To understand brain function it is thus critical to determine how the biophysical properties of neurons and their connections serve to govern network activity.
Cells and Synapses – functional properties of neurons
The Cells and Synapses research theme addresses the functional (electrophysiological) properties of neurons and their projections via axons (membrane specialisations that provide the physical ‘wiring’ of the brain) at critical sites of brain networks underlying attention, prediction, and decision.
At microscopic scales, the distribution of different membrane channels is being investigated, and their properties will be characterised. Critically, we are establishing for different brain regions how neurons combine their inputs to produce an output signal (‘spike train’) for communication to other brain regions. These questions are being investigated with tools such as axonal tracing, electrophysiology, and optogenetics.