The goal of the proposed course, entitled Neurotechnologies for Analysis of Network Dynamics (NAND), is to introduce students with training in physics, mathematics, computer science, and engineering to the theory and practice of modern neuroscience, with special emphasis on modern methods for the analysis of network dynamics in mammalian cortical circuits responsible for behavioral decision making. Recent progress in developing methods for electrical and optical recording from 10s to 100s of neurons simultaneously with cellular resolution is revolutionizing our ability to define neural activity sttes that correspond to periods of memory storage and decision-making in awake, behaving vertebrate animals, including mammals. The goal of this new course is to give students with advanced training in quantitative disciplines outside of neuroscience the theoretical background and practical experience needed to understand and contribute to the ongoing revolution in the analysis of neural network dynamics in anatomically defined neural circuits being used to make decisions based on sensory input, implement those decisions by generation of motor commands, and store information in both short-term and long-tem memory for use in subsequent decision-making. A four-week course is planned. The lectures will introduce the students to: i) the basics of cellular and synaptic physiology; ii) an array of cellular and molecular tools to facilitate network analysis; iii) technology for large scale multi-site recordin; iv) the analysis of large data sets produced by multi-channel recording; v) methods for obtaining multi-site recordings, both electrical and optical, from both animal and human brains; vi) models of information processing in cortical circuits, particularly during reinforcement learning. The laboratory component will provide experience in the recording and analysis of extra- and intracellular recordings, generation and recording of synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, and multi-site optical and electrical recordings from awake behaving rodents. Students will use optogenetic methods for circuit analysis and learn to make fMRI measurements of activity in human subjects during an information processing task. The capstone of the laboratory is a one-week period devoted to student designed Independent Projects.
The goal of President Obama's BRAIN initiative is to 'accelerate the development and application of new technologies that will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought.' The proposed new course will recruit and train a new cadre of neuroscientists with the quantitative skills and theoretical insights to make substantial contributions to the basic understanding of brain dynamics in both normal and disordered brains. The proposed new course includes specific training in human brain imaging and interventional strategies of direct clinical relevance.