O’Connor lab @ Hopkins


How do brain dynamics give rise to sensory experience? We work to understand how sensory-motor neural circuits allow us to perceive, interact with, and learn about the world, with a focus on the sense of touch. Our laboratory approaches this by measuring and manipulating neural circuit dynamics during behavior. We work in the mouse tactile system to capitalize on an accessible mammalian circuit with a precise mapping between the sensory periphery and multiple brain areas. We apply methods of in vivo intracellular and extracellular electrophysiology, in vivo two-photon calcium imaging, optogenetics, and quantitative behavioral analysis. We are currently exploring the neural basis of touch perception and sensory-motor integration at essentially all levels of the nervous system, from peripheral mechanosensory neurons to interactions among multiple sensory-motor cortical areas.

By unraveling circuits for touch perception in the mouse, we expect to gain key insights into principles of mammalian brain function, and to provide a framework to understand how circuit dysfunction ultimately causes mental and behavioral aspects of neuropsychiatric illness.