The long-term goal of the Schnitzer lab's research is to advance experimental paradigms for understanding normal cognitive and disease processes at the level of neural circuits, with emphasis on learning and memory processes. By contrast, much current research on learning and memory concentrates on levels of organization in the nervous system that are either more macroscopic (e.g. in cognitive psychology) or more microscopic (e.g. in synaptic physiology).
The lab's approach combines behavioral, electrophysiological, and computational methodologies with high-resolution fluorescence optical imaging that is capable of resolving individual neurons and dendrites. By necessity, they aim to advance imaging methods so that we can examine dynamics of neuronal populations or of dendritic compartments in behaving animals. En route, they are also performing experiments on circuit properties in anesthetized animals, such as the studies that use our newly invented fluorescence endoscopes for examining hippocampal cells and dendrites in vivo.
They seek explanations that span different levels of organization, from cells to entire circuits. They work with both genetic model organisms, mice and fruit flies, and human subjects. Their research emphasizes understanding the control and learning of motor behaviors, as well as the potential application of our newly developed imaging techniques to clinical use in humans.