To advance our understanding of how the nervous system works and to translate this understanding to clinical applications of brain machine interfaces.
Welcome to the Oweiss lab. My lab's primary interests are twofold: 1) study the basic mechanisms of sensorimotor integration; 2) engineer clinically viable brain machine interface (BMI) systems to restore, augment or repair damaged neurological function such as hearing, sight and movement.We focus on the mechanisms of neural integration and coordination in sensorimotor systems in rodents and nonhuman primates. In particular, we seek to understand: 1) how ensembles of neurons represent and integrate multiple sensory cues to guide motor action; 2) how neural computations take place at the cellular and population level with cell-type specificity; 3) how neural ensemble activity can be decoded to actuate artificial devices; 4) how precise control of cell-type-specific events can perturb and control neural responses to evoke desired behavioral outcome. Techniques regularly used in the lab:1- Behavioral neuroscience: We train animals on behavioral tasks that require the integration of a multitude of sensory cues to guide motor actions for reward.2- Cellular neurophysiology: We use microelectrode arrays implanted in the brain to simultaneously monitor the extracellular activity of many spiking neurons in brain areas of interest in anesthetized and awake behaving animals. Areas of interest are the medial prefrontal cortex, the primary somatosensory (barrel) cortex of rats, the thalamus and the motor cortex. We use standard histological assessment (e.g.: Nissl, Cytochrome Oxidase) to determine recording sites and immunohistochemistry to assess long-term tissue response to chronically implanted arrays.3- Molecular neurobiology:We use optogenetic manipulation of cell-type-specific events to perturb and control single cell and population activity. We sensitize neurons to different colors of laser light with plasmids carrying opsin channels using viral transfection techniques. This permits highly selective activation/inactivation of specific cell types such as regular spiking excitatory pyramidal neurons and fast spiking inhibitory interneurons with millisecond precision. We examine how neuronal excitability can be controlled in this manner at the population and circuit levels to alter neural computations, thereby permitting to decipher complex brain circuits involved in perception/action or normal/pathological states. 4- Computational neuroscience:We develop neural encoding models of sensory inputs and motor outputs to characterize neuronal representation of the outside world. We use statistical signal processing, information theory and machine learning techniques to develop neural decoding algorithms that translate neural activity to behavioral control signals for actuating prosthetic devices. 5- Neural Interface engineering:We engineer wireless, miniaturized electronic systems that can be chronically implanted in subjects’ brains. These systems enable us to continuously monitor neural activity while subjects interact with their surrounding.