The lab is interested in understanding how neural circuits give rise to behaviour. We are primarily interested in how visual information drives movement production, a process that is formally called a visual sensorimotor transformation. This is one of the most fundamental tasks our brain performs, be it walking up a flight of stairs, catching a ball or driving a car. We investigate sensorimotor circuits at the single neuron level using the larval zebrafish which is an attractive neuroscience model due to its transparency and compactness of its brain (~100,000 neurons). At 5 days post fertilization fish are capable of many complex visually driven behaviours including hunting, predator avoidance and optomotor swimming.
Zebrafish are also genetically tractable, allowing for the expression of a wide variety of proteins that grant the ability to monitor and manipulate neuronal activity throughout the brain. To gain insights into circuit function we use a variety of techniques including population calcium imaging during behaviour, optogenetics, closed loop behavioural assays and genome editing. The lab is currently focused on investigating circuits in the forebrain that are thought to be homologous to neurons within the mammalian striatum. Dysfunction in this brain region underlies many motor related diseases including Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s. The lab is also interested in developing new paradigms to investigate learning in fish as well as new ways to screen for neuroactive drugs.