W. M. Keck Center for Neurophysics at UCLA

Theoretical and Experimental Investigations of Learning and Memory

The mind is thought to be the emergent property of the activities of ensembles of neurons. The nature of these emergent properties and how they arise are unknown. This is the focus of our research. In particular, our current research addresses the following fundamental questions in Neurophysics:

How is information about the physical world represented by ensembles of neurons? In particular, what are the neural mechanisms of perceiving space-time?

How do these neural representations evolve with learning?

What is the role of brain rhythms in learning and memory?

How does sleep influence learning?

To address these questions we use both experimental and theoretical approaches as follows:

- Develop hardware to measure and manipulate neural activity and behavior.

- Measure the activity of ensembles of well isolated neurons from many hippocampal and neocortical areas simultaneously during learning and during sleep.

- Develop data analysis tools to decipher the patterns of neural activity and field potentials, and their relationship to behavior.

- Develop biophysical theories of synapses, neurons and neuronal networks that can explain these experimental findings, relate them to the underlying cellular mechanisms, and make experimentally testable predictions.

The results would not only provide fundamental understanding of neural ensemble dynamics but also point to novel ways of treating learning and memory disorders.

Latest research news

  • Nature Neuroscience 15 (11), 2012

    Persistent activity is thought to mediate working memory during behavior. Can it also occur during sleep? We found that the membrane potential of medial entorhinal cortex layer III (MECIII) neurons, a gateway between neocortex and hippocampus, showed spontaneous, stochastic persistent activity in vivo in mice during Up-Down state oscillations (UDS).

  • J. Neuroscience 32 (26) 2012

    The GluA1 subunit of AMPA receptors (AMPARs) is critical for hippocampal synaptic transmission and plasticity. Here we measured the activity of single units from the CA1 region of the hippocampus while GluA1 knock-out (GluA1-/-) and wild-type (WT) mice traversed a linear track.

  • J. Neuroscience 32 (21) 2012

    Successful spatial navigation is thought to employ a combination of at least two strategies: the following of landmark cues and path integration. Path integration requires that the brain use the speed and direction of movement in a meaningful way to continuously compute the position of the animal.