Understanding how activity in neural circuits drives behavior is a fundamental problem in neuroscience. Making this link requires detailed information about the cell types and their connectivity, as well as the spatiotemporal patterns of activity in neural circuits in the intact brain during behaviour. Moreover, probing causal relationships between cellular and circuit-level processes and behaviour requires perturbation of specific elements of the circuit in a temporally and spatially precise manner. This course will highlight the new anatomical, optical, genetic, electrophysiological, and pharmacogenetic approaches that are available for addressing these challenges. The faculty will discuss tool development through to their implementation in diverse model systems. Students will learn the potential and limitations of these techniques, allowing them to both design and interpret experiments correctly.

This is a 3-week course which combines a lecture series featuring top speakers from around the world with a practical “hands-on” introduction to the latest methods for probing neural circuits. The aim is to first teach students the theoretical foundation of the techniques (weeks 1 and 2), and then provide them with sufficient practical experience (weeks 2 and 3) so that they will be able to establish these approaches when they return to their laboratories. The application of the tools to model systems, such as zebrafish and (transgenic) mice and rats, will be discussed.

An important component of the course will be the opportunity for each student to carry out a ‘mini-project’, initiated and developed during the three weeks of the course, and executed under the guidance and supervision of experienced researchers and teaching assistants. This will give them the opportunity to implement what they have learned at a practical level, in pursuit of a well-defined experimental goal. There will be ample opportunity for interactions and discourse between students themselves and between students and the course faculty.