The brain is the most marvelous and complicated organ that governs the body. What we see and hear, how we think, what we remember and dream, are endowed by the 3-pound structure in the skull. Cells in the brain talk with each other and form a network that receives various kinds of sensory stimulation (images, sounds, touches or smells) from the outside world, perform complex yet high-speed calculation and generate corresponding reactions. Creatures even as small as mice can quickly sniff out threatening signals. They could flight from danger just by peek the lengthened shadow of a predator or overheard the movement in the bush.
Intuitively, maybe the escape behavior looks simple. Accomplish this process require several steps: hear or see the alarming signal, judge the valence (safe/danger) of the stimuli, design the behavior and perform, which finished within a blink.
Neuroscience is attractive and sophisticated, revealing the mystery embedded in the brain requires a collaborative effort from many fields, e.g., biochemistry, biophysics, engineering, computer science, microbiology, optics, immunology. Technique advances in the last decades accelerated our understanding of the function of neurocircuits in a way we never been able to. Transgenic animal model and viral tools bridge the gaps between molecular profile, single neuronal activity, and up to behavior performance.
In the past years, we have pioneered in applying in vivo whole-cell voltage-clamp recording, to reveal at the synaptic connection level, how the excitatory and inhibitory synaptic interplay determines the sensory response/processing properties. We have now integrated a broad spectrum of approaches, including in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology, two-photon calcium imaging, neural modeling, anatomical tracing, and optogenetics, to build an understanding of neural circuits composed of different cell types.