Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Ph.D. California Institute of Technology
Sc.B. Brown University
Research Interests: How local circuits in the auditory cortex encode and transform sensory information
Overview: We study how local circuits in the cerebral cortex encode and transform sensory information. We use the rodent auditory cortex as a model system to investigate how cellular and network properties shape cortical responses to a continuous and temporally complex stream of sensory data. Research in my laboratory combines aspects of both cellular, systems, and computational neuroscience, by using the tools of molecular biology and cellular physiology to address systems-level questions. By using a variety of electrophysiological approaches, in particular in vivo whole cell recording methods in combination with molecular manipulations, we are trying to identify the cellular and synaptic mechanisms with which cortical circuits process auditory information, leading ultimately to our perceptual experiences of acoustic streams, such as music and speech.
A Head-Mounted Multi-Camera System for Electrophysiology and Behavior in Freely-Moving Mice.
Front Neurosci. 2020;14:592417
Authors: Sattler NJ, Wehr M
Advances in the ability to monitor freely-moving mice may prove valuable for the study of behavior and its neural correlates. Here we present a head-mounted multi-camera system comprised of inexpensive miniature analog camera modules, and illustrate its use for investigating natural behaviors such as prey capture, courtship, sleep, jumping, and exploration. With a four-camera headset, monitoring the eyes, ears, whiskers, rhinarium, and binocular visual field can all be achieved simultaneously with high-density electrophysiology. With appropriate focus and positioning, all eye movements can be captured, including cyclotorsion. For studies of vision and eye movements, cyclotorsion provides the final degree of freedom required to reconstruct the visual scene in retinotopic coordinates or to investigate the vestibulo-ocular reflex in mice. Altogether, this system allows for comprehensive measurement of freely-moving mouse behavior, enabling a more holistic, and multimodal approach to investigate ethological behaviors and other processes of active perception.
PMID: 33584174 [PubMed]
A Layer 3→5 Circuit in Auditory Cortex That Contributes to Pre-pulse Inhibition of the Acoustic Startle Response.
Front Neural Circuits. 2020;14:553208
Authors: Weible AP, Yavorska I, Kayal D, Duckler U, Wehr M
While connectivity within sensory cortical circuits has been studied extensively, how these connections contribute to perception and behavior is not well understood. Here we tested the role of a circuit between layers 3 and 5 of auditory cortex in sound detection. We measured sound detection using a common variant of pre-pulse inhibition of the acoustic startle response, in which a silent gap in background noise acts as a cue that attenuates startle. We used the Nr5a-Cre driver line, which we found drove expression in the auditory cortex restricted predominantly to layer 3. Photoactivation of these cells evoked short-latency, highly reliable spiking in downstream layer 5 neurons, and attenuated startle responses similarly to gaps in noise. Photosuppression of these cells did not affect behavioral gap detection. Our data provide the first demonstration that direct activation of auditory cortical neurons is sufficient to attenuate the acoustic startle response, similar to the detection of a sound.
PMID: 33192336 [PubMed - in process]