The departments mission is to understand the neural basis underlying conscious perception. Using the auditory and visual sensory modalities as models, we investigate where sensory objects are encoded in the brain, how they are represented by neuronal activity; and how this representation is shaped by learning.
To do so, we assess neuronal activity at different spatio-temporal scales using methods like intracortical recordings, optical imaging and high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In addition, to studying the neural code underlying perception, our work also serves to improve our understanding of what different methodologies, such as functional imaging, electro-encephalography or the firing of individual neurons tell us about each other and about brain function. Over the last decade we have been particularly interested in the relationship of neural activity to the fMRI signals.
Finally, a group of synthetic and coordination chemists attempt to synthesize and evaluate MR-detectable smart probes that change magnetic properties as a function of the concentration of ions and molecules involved in neural signaling. Such probes promise to revolutionize neuroimaging and are likely to represent a quantum leap forward in signal-to-noise ratio, spatial detail and specificity, while affording unprecedented temporal resolution.