Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Imperial College, London, UK
Thomas Knöpfel received his M.D from the University of Ulm, Germany, and his Ph.D. in brain science from the University of Zürich (Switzerland). He also graduated in physics. After promotion to associate professor of physiology at the University of Zürich, he worked for 3 years for a Swiss pharmaceutical company leading a drug discovery project in the field of glutamate receptors. From 1998 to 2013 he joined the RIKEN Brain Science Institute (Japan), to develop optogenetic tools for the analysis of neuronal circuit mechanisms. Since 2013 he is Chair of Optogenetics and Circuit Neurosciences at Imperial College London (UK).
Genetically encoded calcium and voltage indicators (GECIs and GEVIs) address the two main obstacles that brain sciences must overcome to bridge cellular level and systems physiology. The first difficulty arises from the fact that neuronal circuits generate and process signals through microscopically small and numerous parallel channels at the millisecond timescale. Optical activity indicators enable accurate detection of these signals with the required spatial and temporal resolution. The second obstacle is to overcome neuronal diversity. By genetically targeting defined populations of neurons, identification, monitoring and control of specific cell classes in their functional context becomes feasible.
Our lab engaged over the last 15 years in the development of genetically encoded voltage indicators based on the use of isolated voltage-sensing domains derived from voltage-sensitive membrane proteins, with fluorescent proteins providing readout of their voltage-dependent conformational state. This class of GEVIs has been given the acronym VSFP (voltage sensitive fluorescent protein). More recently, we demonstrated the principles of GEVI-based in vivo circuit imaging of very large pools of genetically specified classes of neurons, resolving their synchronized and coordinated activities. We believe that GEVI-based in vivo imaging technologies are sufficiently developed to approach many circuit level research questions in behaving rodent models. Examples will be presented to support this notion.
Host: Elena Kozlova
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