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His lab studies the neural ensemble dynamics of sensori-motor processes in awake rodents, combining behavior, multi-neuronal electrophysiology, complex analysis and modeling, pharmacology and optogenetics to probe ongoing spiking activity in real-time. The goal is to eventually move our understanding of this activity forward to the point at which it can be understood online, in single trials, and without reference to external benchmarks (stimulus onset time, for instance) that the animal doesn’t actually know.
The cornerstone of his lab work involves examination of the neural responses to gustatory (taste) stimuli, which are unique in their reliable non-arbitrariness: a gustatory stimulus hits the tongue laden with meaning—each causes an emotional response (yum or yuck), and each causes a behavior (consumption or rejection); much of our research plumbs these processes.
Furthermore, the potency of taste stimuli is such that rats quickly learn about their properties—whether they poison or nourish—and readily learn ABOUT visual and auditory stimuli that are PAIRED with them. They study these processes as well…a pursuit which has led them into some experiments that don’t involve taste at all.