Sensory processing is heavily dependent upon on brain state, which is regulated by several neuromodulatory systems, including the locus coeruleus – norepinephrine (LC-NE) system. As the primary source of NE to the forebrain through widespread projections, the LC regulates many essential brain functions. We use electrophysiology, gene editing, opto/chemogenetic manipulation, and behavioral paradigms, to investigate how LC activity modulates the formation of perception and behavior in both health and disease.
Non-luminance mediated changes in pupil size (i.e. changes in pupil size not resulting from changes in ambient luminance) have been increasingly used to index arousal state in human behavior. This is mainly because pupillometry (i.e. measurement of pupil size) is an easy, non-invasive, and inexpensive (thanks to the advances of consumer electronics) procedure. However, the underlying neural mechanisms that allow non-luminance mediated changes in pupil size to be indicative of arousal state remain elusive.
Electrical stimulation of specific structures in the brain has been widely used in the clinical setting to treat various neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. However, it has been shown that micro-stimulation evokes wide spread downstream neuronal activation, losing its specificity. We are developing finite-element-model-based stimulation strategies to shape downstream neural activity, with the goal being to increase the specificity of micro-stimulation.
We are interested in the neural basis of the sense of touch, especially how information related to touch is encoded in various brain structures within the somatosensory pathway of the brain.