Neural circuit basis of computation and behaviour #NCBCB

May 2 to 20 (2022)

How does the activity of neural circuits govern information processing, enable memory formation, and give rise to behaviour? Tackling these questions is one of the great challenges in current neuroscience. To make progress, quantitative studies of both structure and function of neural circuits are required, which these days have become feasible with a collection of new and broad methods. Neural circuit research bridges the molecular-cellular level to the levels of large-scale brain operation and animal behaviour and thus promises to reveal principles of spatiotemporal circuit dynamics that underlie specific brain states and behaviours. The relevance and role of specific cell types and of local as well as long-range circuit motifs need to be understood. This course aims to bring students up-to-date with the most recent developments in this exciting and fundamental field of neuroscience research. The focus will be on the advanced experimental approaches that are available today for the dissection of neural circuit connectivity and activity in various animal models (mouse, fly, zebrafish).

The Cajal course is an intensive three-week course that guides participants through the theory and practice of state-of-the-art methods for addressing pertinent questions in this field of research. This course will teach the latest technological advances in optical, electrophysiological, genetic, viral tracing, anatomical, and optogenetic approaches for the study of neural circuits. Students will learn the current state of knowledge of how neural circuits are organized, especially in the mammalian mouse brain, and how information can be processed in biological circuits through population-based activity patterns.  The faculty will consist of international experts in their respective fields, discussing fundamental concepts and their own research, introducing methods relevant for neural circuit research, and providing hands-on projects. Students will perform experimental projects to apply these methods to scientific problems, they will learn how to analyse acquired data, and they will discuss strengths and limitations of the various techniques. The course is designed for PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, and early-stage group leaders, and is aimed at providing them with an enhanced tool set for addressing their current and future research questions.

Course director & co-directors

  • Fritjof Helmchen (University of Zurich, Switzerland)
  • Andreas Frick (University of Bordeaux, France)
  • Cyril Herry (University of Bordeaux, France)

Jerôme Baufreton (University of Bordeaux, France)
Philipp Bethge (University of Zurich, Switzerland)
Roman Boehringer (Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich – ETH Zurich, Switzerland)
Tom Broyer (University of Bordeaux, France)
Lorena Delgado (University of Bordeaux, France)
Gabrielle Girardeau (Fer à Moulin Institute, France)
Noelle Grosjean (University of Bordeaux, France)
Yann Humeau (University of Bordeaux, France)
Daniel Jercog (University of Bordeaux, France)
Jean-Sebastien Jouhanneau (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz – MDC Berlin, Germany)
Marie Labouesse (Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich – ETH Zurich, Switzerland)
Frederic Lanore (University of Bordeaux, France)
Arthur Leblois (University of Bordeaux, France)
Christopher Lewis (University of Zurich, Switzerland)
Catherine Marneffe (University of Bordeaux, France)
Pavan Ramdya (Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne – EPFL, Switzerland)
Lisa Roux (University of Bordeaux, France)
Gwendolin Schoenfeld (University of Zurich, Switzerland)
Ourania Semelidou (University of Bordeaux, France)
Sandra Soukup (University of Bordeaux, France)
Naoya Takahashi (University of Bordeaux, France)
Roman Ursu (University of Bordeaux, France)
Nikita Vladimirov (University of Zurich, Switzerland)
Yuktiben Vyas (University of Bordeaux, France)

Participants will learn all basic requirements to perform:

  •  ex vivo optogenetic and patchclamp recordings in acute brain slices
  • in vivo calcium imaging experiments in freely moving mice using miniaturized microscopes
  • laser scanning lightsheet microscope by disassembling and reassembling a benchtop version of the mesoSPIM before preparing, acquiring and analysing various cleared neuronal samples
  • how to operate a two-photon microscope and how to do basic trouble-shooting
  • basics of electrode design, construction and instrumentation
  • basic requirements to perform extracellular recordings in singing birds using motorized micro-drive; basic procedures to image activity from individual dendrites of cortical pyramidal neurons in awake mice
  • basic spike data analysis (spike sorting, detection of tagged unit)
  • dissection, microimplantation, and specimen preparation for live imaging; Calcium imaging data acquisition and computational data analysis

The following projects are confirmed so far:

  • Project 1: Imaging neural population activity along the gut-brain axis in adult drosophila
  • Project 2: Two-photon targeted patch-clamp and calcium population imaging in mouse neocortex during tactile stimulation
  • Project 3: Monitoring neuronal activity in the song-control circuits in freely behaving zebra finches
  • Project 4: MesoSPIM light-sheet imaging of anatomical projections in the cleared mouse brain
  • Project 5: Functional representations of tactile stimuli in the cortex using in vivo 2-photon calcium imaging
  • Project 6: Large scale multi-electrode recordings and optogenetic manipulations of neuronal subtypes in freely moving animals
  • Project 7: All optical imaging and stimulation of neuromodulator release in freely moving mice (multiplex fiber photometry)
  • Project 8: Ex vivo optogenetic manipulations of basal ganglia circuits
  • Project 9: In vivo calcium imaging of hippocampal CA1 population activity in the freely moving mouse using miniaturized microscopes
  • Project 10: “In vivo multimodal, multiscale physiology
  • Project 11: In vivo optogenetic manipulations of prefrontal circuits
  • Project 12: Multi-site electrophysiological activities in a working memory task and related consolidation sleeping phases
  • Project 13: Two-photon calcium imaging of cortical dendrites in awake head-fixed mice
  • Project 14: Birth of a memory: ex vivo optogenetic approach to study hippocampal engrams

Keynote speakers

Antoine Adamantidis (University of Bern, Switzerland)
Athena Akrami (University College London, UK)
Matteo Carandini (University College London, UK)
Megan Carey (Champalimaud Research, Portugal)
Marie Carlen (Karolinska Institute, Sweden)
Valentina Emiliani (Vision Institute Paris, France)
Rainer Fiedrich (Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Switzerland)
Nadine Gogolla (Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Germany)
Benjamin Grewe (
Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich- ETH Zurich, Switzerland)
Johannes Kohl (Francis Crick Institute, UK)
Matthew E. Larkum (Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany)
Tommaso Patriarchi (University of Zurich, Switzerland)
Pavan Ramdya (Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne – EPFL, Switzerland)
Nathalie Rochefort (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Lisa Roux (University of Bordeaux, France)
Manuel Zimmer (University of Vienna, Austria)

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