Perception and
Attention

Cellular and Network Mechanisms

Sensory cortices integrate raw information provided by sensory organs. As most of the neurons located in sensory cortical areas are specifically tuned for a sensorial feature such as a shape, a tone or an odor, we usually assume that the role of sensory cortices is to produce a faithful representation of our surroundings. However, is this encoding really faithful? Recent studies suggest that higher brain functions such as attention, emotion, and memory actively influence the cortical processing of sensory information. Studies in primates have shown that some behavioral tasks can modulate the response of sensory cortical neurons to sensory stimulation. These results led to the hypothesis that sensory cortices are dynamic interfaces where features of the outer world are matched with inner expectations. It is possible that in neurological disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, the poor performance of patients at tasks involving sensory processing such as face recognition, motion processing and visual attention results from a dysfunction of this interface.

To investigate how neurons of the mouse primary visual cortex integrate information during active visual processing, we perform two-photon targeted patch-clamp recordings, two-photon calcium imaging, voltage sensor imaging, as well as optogenic and pharmacological manipulations in the visual cortex. These techniques are used in awake mice while they are performing behavioral tasks involving visual perception or visual attention.