This proposal aims to understand the changes in visual processing that occur when subjects shift between alert and non-alert waking states. Thanks to the development of behavioral methods for the control of eye position, great advances have been made in understanding central mechanisms of visual perception of alert, attentive subjects. However, there is little understanding of cortical processes that come into play when alertness wanes. The awake, non-alert state is not equivalent to anesthesia, or to sleep states. When non-alert, we are capable of perception, but our perceptual capacities differ. It is commonly believed that "accidents happen" when we are not alert, but the extent to which early thalamic or visual cortical mechanisms may be responsible for this (as opposed to higher cognitive processes) is an open question. This proposal relies on a unique model system that is very well-suited to address this question: the awake rabbit, an animal who's "inner mental life" transparently shifts between alert and non- alert states, and who's stable eyes and diffident nature make it an ideal subject for these experiments. The proposed research will examine how changes in the brain state of awake subjects influence the multiple, sequential stages of information processing that occur within the visual thalamocortical and intracortical network. The experiments will measure state- dependent changes in the visual response properties of excitatory and inhibitory neurons at the input and output layers of the cortex and will investigate the underlying mechanisms leading to these changes, at the subthreshold and spiking level. This work will lead to a better understanding of cortical mechanisms of visual processing in a dynamic, awake brain. From a health perspective, these studies will have an important impact on our understanding of how alertness/vigilance deficits can impact visual perception and performance, and will provide the basis for future clinical studies of human mental health and behavioral disorders.

Public Health Relevance

The current work will have an important impact on our understanding of how alertness/vigilance deficits can impact visual perception and performance. A disruption in response gain within thalamocortical systems has been associated with mental diseases that involve changes in sensory processing and the level of vigilance. This proposal will reveal the mechanisms that modulate response gain within the visual thalamocortical system and, by doing so, it will provide the basis for future clinical studies of human mental health and behavioral disorders.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
5R01EY018251-06
Application #
8655873
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
Program Officer
Araj, Houmam H
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
6
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
University of Connecticut
Department
Psychology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
City
Storrs-Mansfield
State
CT
Country
United States
Zip Code
06269
Hei, Xiaojuan; Stoelzel, Carl R; Zhuang, Jun et al. (2014) Directional selective neurons in the awake LGN: response properties and modulation by brain state. J Neurophysiol 112:362-73
Zhuang, Jun; Bereshpolova, Yulia; Stoelzel, Carl R et al. (2014) Brain state effects on layer 4 of the awake visual cortex. J Neurosci 34:3888-900
Bereshpolova, Yulia; Stoelzel, Carl R; Zhuang, Jun et al. (2011) Getting drowsy? Alert/nonalert transitions and visual thalamocortical network dynamics. J Neurosci 31:17480-7
Stoelzel, Carl R; Bereshpolova, Yulia; Swadlow, Harvey A (2009) Stability of thalamocortical synaptic transmission across awake brain states. J Neurosci 29:6851-9