Cortical basis of learning in virtual environments

How do cortical circuits remodel during the learning of novel information?

A fundamental goal of neuroscience research is to determine how new information is encoded and consolidated during learning. Although the molecular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity important for memory encoding have been well studied in cerebral cortex, much less is known about circuit-level neurophysiological changes responsible for learning. In order to study the circuit-level remodeling accompanying memory, we have developed a virtual maze for studying learning in head-fixed mice. We will monitor large-scale neural activity in behaving animals during the acquisition of novel information (e.g., a route through a maze). This will enable us to use 2-photon microscopy to chronically measure large-scale neural activity of genetically-identified cortical neurons during the learning of a new maze route.