Career Plan and Environment of Career Development: Dr. Emanuel is a joint postdoctoral fellow in the laboratories of Drs. David Ginty and Chris Harvey who is dedicated to a career as an academic researcher. Drs. Emanuel, Ginty, and Harvey have developed a 12-point career development plan that will enable Dr. Emanuel's transition to an independent research position. This plan incorporates resources available at Harvard Medical School, including formal and informal training from the community within the Department of Neurobiology and the broader Harvard Medical School community. Formal training includes attendance at seminars on professional development and responsible conduct of research as well as engaging the wider scientific community with publication of manuscripts describing Dr. Emanuel's work and presentations at international meetings. Overall, this plan will optimally prepare Dr. Emanuel for the transition to an independent career. Research Plan: The goal of this project is to determine how the representation of complex features in primary somatosensory cortex are produced by cortical and subcortical neural circuitry and how these representations are adapted for the behavior of the animal. Specifically, the experiments in this proposal will use mouse genetic approaches and in vivo electrophysiology to address the neural underpinnings of speed, direction, and orientation tuning in primary somatosensory cortex (Aim 1). Combining in vivo electrophysiology with genetic manipulations and recording from primary somatosensory cortex will determine the extent to which these cortical representations are necessary for and adapt to performance of tactile behaviors (Aim 2). Finally, combining in vivo electrophysiology in freely moving animals with modern computer vision for monitoring behavior and the force applied to the skin will determine how neurons in primary somatosensory cortex are engaged during natural movements and environmental interactions (Aim 3). In all, these experiments will yield insight into the fundamental processes underlying sensory processing in the central nervous system.
Completion of the experiments in this proposal will bolster our knowledge about how sensory systems represent the environment and the extent to which these representations are tailored to the behavioral needs of animals. The insights gained should, in the long term, be applicable to the development of machine-brain interfaces and treatments for sensory and nervous system disorders. Such development would reduce illness and disability, thereby enhancing quality of life.