Published in: Berkeley Neuroscience News | February 6, 2019
Image courtesy of Hillel Adesnik

In a perspective published in Neuron, Associate Professor of Neurobiology Hillel Adesnik and HWNI PhD Program alum Alexander Naka propose an “experimental road map” towards a better understanding of the function of the cortical layers that process sensory information.

After reviewing the current state of the field, the authors point out gaps in our knowledge of how the cortex processes information, including a lack of experimental evidence to adequately test differing theories.

Adesnik and Naka describe several new and emerging technologies that could help fill in these gaps, particularly when used in conjunction with each other. They propose a “holistic attack” on the question of how cortical layers and the cell types within them contribute to sensory perception, which includes simultaneously monitoring the activity of large numbers of neurons, identifying specific cell types and their connectivity, and precise experimental manipulations — even down to the level of individual cells.

Adesnik and Naka make the case that combining these different approaches will give a more complete picture of how the cortex generates sensory perceptions, and may also lead to insights about other areas of the cortex, such as those involved in motor control and decision-making.

By Rachel Henderson

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