Much is known about the potential cellular and synaptic mechanisms of brain learning from in vitro studies; however, the extent to which these mechanisms contribute to learning during actual memory formation in awake behaving brains is almost completely unknown. What is known is that the activity of neurons can be much different depending on whether they are in a brain slice, an anesthetized animal, or an awake behaving animal. Ultimately, it is therefore important to develop new technologies to test these mechanisms directly in awake behaving brains. These measurements, although highly desired by many researchers, are presently extremely challenging technically. The broad goal of the research that will be presented is to develop novel minimally invasive micro-devices for reliable, high-quality, and long-term intra-cellular recordings that will ultimately advance our knowledge of the basic mechanisms of human learning and memory at the level of single neurons and allow us to gain previously unattainable insight into how we are able to quickly form memories for specific items and experiences from our daily life, and store and recall them for years.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute – Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn, VA