How our brain computes information? What is changing in our brain when we learn?

The Schiller Lab seeks to understand the remarkable ability of the cortex to compute, learn and store information, which enables the organism to acquire new skills, knowledge, and behaviors, and adjust to new environments and challenges. Our unique approach involves the multi-level exploration of the motor cortex—from the molecular to the cellular and network level—in an effort to connect the dynamic dendritic computations of pyramidal neurons to the functioning of the cortical network and ultimately to the formation of distinct behaviors.

In particular, we are exploring in vivo how the single computational unit of the cortex—the pyramidal neuron—processes and stores the vast input information it receives on its elaborate dendritic trees, which are the sites of communication between neurons where the actual processing, learning and storage occur. We are especially interested in elucidating how the different cell types in the motor cortex contribute to different aspects of movement, and what algorithms are used by different types of pyramidal neurons to transform their inputs to outputs in order to learn and store information.

In my lab, we use advanced methods including behavioral motor paradigms, electrophysiological, imaging, viral, genetic, optogenetics, pharmacogenetics, histology and modeling techniques, both in vivo in awake behaving mice and in vitro in a slice preparation.
Jackie Schiller, PhD.