Mouse primary visual cortex (V1) is capable of encoding visual stimuli and undergoing bidirectional plasticity coincident with patterned visual experience. The prefrontal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) receives input from visual cortex, but mechanisms of visual encoding and experience-dependent plasticity in ACC are not well- understood. The goal of the proposed research is to define how ACC encodes and adapts to patterned visual experience. During the K99 phase, I will pair in vivo and ex vivo recordings with optogenetic and chemogenetic circuit manipulations to study how ACC microcircuits encode visual input. K99 training in two-photon calcium imaging will enable longitudinal studies of how individual neurons adapt to visual experience during the R00 phase. As abnormal sensory processing is a common feature of autism spectrum disorder, further R00 research will use approaches developed during K99 training to assess ACC microcircuit function in single-gene mouse models of autism. My long-term career goals are to advance basic knowledge of visual processing and to improve the lives of individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders through a collaborative program of basic and translational research. To achieve my goal of securing a tenure track faculty position as an independent researcher in neuroscience research, I have developed a comprehensive career development plan with the support of co-mentors Dr. Ben Philpot and Dr. Spencer Smith (UNC) and collaborators Dr. Paul Manis (UNC) and Dr. Jeff Gavornik (Boston University). This plan includes a) technical training in two-photon imaging, b) collaborative projects, c) training in presentation skills, d) training in mentoring skills, e) training in grant writing, f) career guidance, g) clinical exposure, h) formal coursework, i) teaching opportunties, and j) progress monitoring and evalulation.
Mouse vision has long been used as a model system to understand how experience modifies the brain. This proposal will demonstrate how 'low-level' and 'high-level' brain areas are differentially shaped by visual experience. The proposed research is broadly relevant for neurodevelopmental diseases such as autism, in which sensory processing deficits are highly penetrant. !