The prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays an important role in regulating social functions in mammals, and impairments in this region have been linked with social dysfunction in psychiatric disorders. Yet little is known of how the PFC encodes social information. I will present our work on the representation of social stimuli in the prefrontal cortex of mice, and show that both the preference for social odors and the experience-dependent refinement of social odor representations are impaired in a genetic mouse model of autism.
The PFC is embedded in multiple brain-wide networks regulating behavior. Dissecting the contribution of such long-range synaptic interactions between distant circuits requires techniques for selectively manipulating these connections. We have previously shown that commonly used inhibitory optogenetic tools are inappropriate for silencing presynaptic terminals, due to the unique biophysical properties of this cellular compartment. We have now developed a new approach for silencing presynaptic neurotransmitter release using a unique invertebrate rhodopsin that selectively couples to the Gi/o signaling pathway and acts to suppress synaptic transmission in vitro and in vivo. I will describe the engineering of this tool and its application in behaving mice.
This seminar will be given online via Zoom.