To study the functional organization of the visual cortex, we use a variety of systems and cellular approaches both in vivo and in vitro, including imaging, electrophysiology, optogenetics, anatomy and behavior.
Most of our experiments begin with mice with chronically implanted cranial windows. These windows expose primary visual cortex (V1), the surrounding higher visual areas, in addition to parts of somatosensory and auditory cortex. We then use either genetic markers or intrinsic signal imaging to locate specific areas and target them for expression of genetically encoded calcium sensors or optically activated channels.
Neurons in V1 are highly selective for specific visual stimuli, and neighboring neurons have diverse receptive field preferences. These V1 neurons make target-specific projections to an array of functionally specialized higher areas, providing a simple structure for studying how the cortex handles diverse sensory input.