Speaker of Workshop 1
Will talk about: Synaptic mechanisms of sensory perception
Carl Petersen studied physics as a bachelor student in Oxford. During his PhD studies under the supervision of Prof. Michael Berridge in Cambridge, he investigated calcium signalling and cloned the first vertebrate TRP channels. In his first postdoctoral period (1996-1998), he joined the laboratory of Prof. Roger Nicoll to investigate synaptic transmission and plasticity in the hippocampus. During a second postdoctoral period with Prof. Bert Sakmann (1999-2003), he began working on the primary somatosensory barrel cortex, investigating cortical circuits and sensory processing. Carl Petersen joined the Brain Mind Institute at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in 2003, setting up the Laboratory of Sensory Processing to investigate the functional operation of neural circuits in awake mice during quantified behavior. His goal is to obtain a causal and mechanistic understanding of sensory perception and associative learning at the level of individual neurons and their synaptic interactions within complex microcircuits.
A key goal of modern neuroscience is to understand the neural circuits and synaptic mechanisms underlying sensory perception. Here, I will discuss our efforts to characterise sensory processing in the mouse barrel cortex, a brain region known to process tactile information relating to the whiskers on the snout. Each whisker is individually represented in the primary somatosensory neocortex by an anatomical unit termed a ‘barrel’. The barrels are arranged in a stereotypical map, which allows recordings and manipulations to be targeted with remarkable precision. In this cortical region it may therefore be feasible to gain a quantitative understanding of neocortical function. We have begun experiments towards this goal using whole-cell recordings, voltage-sensitive dye imaging, viral manipulations, optogenetics and two-photon microscopy. Through combining these techniques with behavioral training, our experiments provide new insight into sensory perception at the level of individual neurons and their synaptic connections.