Mark Schnitzer, PhD
Associate Professor of Biology and Applied Physics
Optical imaging of large-scale neural codes and voltage dynamics in behaving animals
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, allowing time-lapse studies of 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, accurate estimation of spike timing, and studies of oscillatory voltage dynamics in targeted cell types of awake behaving animals.
Bio: Prof. Schnitzer is a faculty member in Stanford's Biology and Applied Physics departments and an HHMI Investigator. His lab innovates and uses novel optical brain imaging technologies in the pursuit of understanding how large ensembles of neurons control behavior. He served on the NIH Advisory Committee for the BRAIN Initiative and is a member of the NIH multi-council working group overseeing the Initiative's progress. Over the last 10 years, the Schnitzer lab has invented multiple technologies for imaging neural dynamics, including tiny microscopes that are only 1-3 grams in mass and small enough to be mounted on the head of a freely moving adult mouse. Several of Dr. Schnitzer's inventions are now commercially available, for use in mice and humans. Schnitzer is a co-founder of Inscopix Inc, which has commercialized the miniature microscope technology and was named a Technology Pioneer of the World Economic Forum. Schnitzer's lab at Stanford University is now extensively using optical techniques for research on ensemble neural codes that support perception, cognition and long-term memory.