PiN Faculty Member - Rachel Wilson, PhD

Rachel Wilson, PhD

Professor of Neurobiology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Harvard Medical School
Department of Neurobiology
Warren Alpert Building, Room 320
200 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-432-5571
Fax: 617-734-7557
Visit my lab page here.

Our mission is to understand key computations that occur in sensory processing and sensorimotor integration, and to describe the biophysical mechanisms underlying these computations.

We use the brain of the fruit fly Drosophila to investigate these questions. The genetic toolbox of this organism allows us to rapidly generate new reagents to label or manipulate specific classes of neurons in the brain. Many individual neurons are uniquely identifiable across different brains, and they have fairly stereotyped synaptic inputs and outputs. This allows us to build up a cumulative picture of each neuron in a network. Crucially, it allows us to understand a neuron's activity patterns in light of its synaptic connectiviity patterns.

Because many neural systems in various species face the same constraints, we believe tha tsome of the lessons we learn from this simple brain will provide clues to understanding similar problems in more complex brains.

In the area of sensory processing, we are currently focusing on the olfactory, auditory, and mechanosensory systems, as well as cross-modal sensory integration.

In the area of sensorimotor integration, we are currently focusing on motor behaviors involving guided limb control.

Key questions:

*What neural computations occur at successive layers of a neural network?
*What biophysical mechanisms implement these neural computations?
*How do these particular neural computations (and their implementation) help us understand the behaviors that engage these networks, as well as the constraints that shaped these networks and behaviors?

Techniques: Each study typically combines several of the following approaches:

*in vivo electrophysiological recording of neural activity
*in vivo optical imaging of neural activity
*genetic manipulation of specific cell classes
*behavioral measurements
*mathematical modeling

Last Update: 6/21/2017


For a complete listing of publications click here.



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