Team 5 – Drive Control

The hypothalamus generates innate drives for behavioral action. However, we do not yet understand what drives the activity of hypothalamic neurons, and what cellular and synaptic processes underly conscious inhibition of hypothalamic instincts. How is neural activity in the hypothalamus coordinated by top-down input? We study how cortical microcircuits control hypothalamic networks.

The lateral hypothalamic area (LH) is a vital controller of arousal, feeding and metabolism. It contains diverse cell types that have various, and sometimes opposite behavioral effects. We recently found that LH neurons do not communicate to each other through frequent synaptic contacts like neurons in canonical neocortical microcircuits do (Burdakov and Karnani 2020 bioRxiv). Therefore the locus of control of LH neurons is elsewhere – and one important upstream circuit is the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which contains densely connected microcircuitry and projects to numerous ventral brain regions besides the hypothalamus. Our current project is focused on the organization and function of this prefrontal-hypothalamic axis.

We use multiphoton microscopy, miniscope Ca2+ imaging, optogenetics, slice electrophysiology and neuroanatomy.

We are looking for a Master’s student to produce results similar to the videos above. Details here.

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