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Darshan Lab

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Our Research
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We are now in front of a new era in uncovering the principles underlying the dynamics and functions of large neural networks. 

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This is mainly thanks to tremendous technological advances in the past decade, allowing experimentalists to record from a large number of neurons, to reconstruct brain circuitry in various areas with an unprecedented precision and to perturb neuronal activity at various spatial scales from the single cell to behavior. This makes it possible to investigate the relationship between function, structure, and dynamics of neural networks beyond qualitative reasoning.

At Janelia, we aim to work closely with experimentalists and develop theories and tools for designing perturbations for large neural circuits in order to study the mechanisms and principles underlying the organization and function of a brain system. For instance, while the responses of a network to simple perturbations and their resulting behavioral consequences might sometimes be straightforward to understand with qualitative reasoning (e.g. using channelrhodopsin will usually result in an increase of the activity of neurons expressing it and probably also their efferents), very often the response of large neural circuits to perturbations is way beyond simple intuitions. This is because network response can subtly depend on the circuit structure, on the time of applying the perturbation, on the highly non-linear dynamics of the network elements, as well as on the spatiotemporal shape of the input itself. In the lab, we develop new theoretical tools to deal with perturbations to such complex systems and we apply them to elucidate the relationship between structure and functions.