Mark J. Schnitzer
Prof. Mark J. Schnitzer, Departments of Biology and Applied Physics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University
Abstract: A longstanding challenge in neuroscience is to understand how the dynamics of large populations of individual neurons contribute to animal behavior and brain disease. Addressing this challenge has been difficult partly due to lack of appropriate brain imaging technology for visualizing cellular dynamics in awake behaving animals. I will discuss several new optical technologies of this kind. The miniature integrated fluorescence microscope allows one to monitor the dynamics of up to ~1000 individual genetically identified neurons in behaving mice over weeks. I will describe ongoing studies using this technology to understand the neural codes underlying episodic, emotional and reward related memories. Toward elucidating the interactions between brain areas during active behavior, multi-axis optical imaging can record the dynamics of two or more neural ensembles residing in different brain regions. Lastly, genetically encoded voltage indicators are progressing rapidly in their capacities to allow high fidelity detection of neural spikes and accurate estimation of spike timing, and with further improvements might soon be ready for use in behaving animals.
Bio: Professor Schnitzer is an HHMI Investigator, the Co-Director of the Cracking the Neural Code Program, and a faculty member of the Neuroscience, Biophysics, and Molecular Imaging Programs in the Stanford School of Medicine, as well as of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute and Stanford Bio-X. Dr. Schnitzer has longstanding interests in neural circuit dynamics and optical imaging, and his optical innovations are used in over a hundred neuroscience labs in the USA, Europe and Asia, and in the neuropharmaceutical industry. The miniature integrated fluorescence microscope invented in his lab was named the 2013 Innovation of the Year by The Scientist magazine. Dr. Schnitzer has received the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the Biophysical Society’s Michael and Kate Bárány Award, and a Presidential Young Investigator Award, and was a finalist for the 2013 Israel Brain Prize. He is a member of the National Institutes of Health working group for President Obama's BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies).
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