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Shaul Hestrin, PhD, Professor, received his Ph.D. degree in Physiology from University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to coming to Stanford, Dr. Hestrin held faculty appointments at University of California, San Francisco and University of Tennessee, Memphis.

The main interest of Dr. Hestrin’s lab is to understand how the properties of neocortical neurons, the circuits they form and the inputs they receive, give rise to neuronal activity and behavior.  Their approach includes behavioral studies, two-photon calcium imaging, in vivo imaging and in vivo whole cell recording in behaving animals and optogenetic methods to activate cortical neurons as well as cortical afferents.

The neocortex represents about 80% of the human brain and is associated with wide range of functions including sensory perception, motor movement, memory and higher aspects of cognition. In the neocortex a major synaptic input originates from local cortical neurons. In addition, thalamic inputs, together with distant corticortical inputs and neuromodulator inputs play a critical role. How these diverse inputs combine at the cellular and circuit level to generate neuronal activity and behavior is the focus of our studies.

We have developed methods to define cell types using genetics and other means. In vitro approach allowed us to characterize the wiring pattern of microcircuits and the synaptic properties of specific connections. To investigate how neuronal properties and interactions generate neuronal activity under physiological conditions, we study cortical neurons in vivo in behaving mice. By combining whole cell recordings, calcium imaging and optogenetics we study the subthreshold activity and circuit activity that drive spike generation in cortical neurons. Importantly, by studying and manipulating neuronal responses as well as behavioral performance we can investigate the relation between neuronal activity and animal perception.

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