How connectomes can help us understand navigational attractor dynamics

Vivek Jayaraman
Janelia Research Campus
Mechanistic Cognitive Neuroscience

Decades of neurophysiological recordings from the brains of many different animals have revealed neural dynamics consistent with those produced by attractor networks. More recently, my lab has used calcium imaging and optogenetic perturbations of genetically specified neural populations in tethered flies behaving in a virtual reality environment to establish similar dynamics in a navigational brain center. These dynamics represent the fly’s head direction and are used for vector computations by downstream circuits in the brain region. The availability of a synaptic-resolution connectome for this brain region has enabled us and others to realize powerful experiment-theory loops in which we use physiological experiments to test and refine hypotheses that are generated by connectomic analysis. In my hopefully interactive talk, I will describe the biological phenomena we seek to understand and how connectomes are enabling us to link circuit structure and function in the context of attractor dynamics that are thought to enable flexible behavior across the animal kingdom.

Presentation (PDF File)

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