Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences Events Mathematics

Sept. 11: NSF-RTG and Department of Mathematics Research Colloquium


Wednesday, September 11, 2019 

Opportunities for student collaborations with UTSW Neuroscience 

Julian Meeks, Brad Pfeiffer, and Wei Xu
Department of Neuroscience
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Abstract: Starting this year, an NSF RTG (Research Training Grant) will fund the development of three vertically-integrated research training groups, each of which partners SMU mathematicians with scientists in other disciplines. The group Computation-enabled investigations into circuits and cognition will partner SMU mathematicians with experimental neuroscientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center.  There will be opportunities for both grad students and undergrads to collaborate with our partner labs. Today, the principal investigators will introduce their labs.

The Meeks Lab studies the neurobiology of olfaction (the sense of smell). We study the encoding, decoding, and physiological impacts of pheromones using population calcium imaging, electrophysiology, and quantitative social behavior tests. Our overarching goal is to learn how real brains perform massive dimensionality reduction with high precision, and how that information is used to support the animal’s survival and reproduction.

The Pfeiffer lab studies how large populations of neurons cooperatively function to encode, store, and retrieve information, using spatial memory as a specific example of more general forms of memory.  We perform large-scale electrophysiological recordings in freely behaving rats and mice, resulting in massive datasets that can be used to address a large number of questions regarding how neural networks function in an intact brain.

The Xu Laboratory studies memory generalization—the cognitive process of extending what we have learned from past experience to new situations. Generalization is impaired in several neuropsychiatric disorders, such as psychosis. To achieve its goals, the Xu laboratory uses functional imaging of neurons in deep-brain structures in freely-moving animals, along with targeted manipulation of circuit components using novel optogenetic tools.

Room: 126 Clements Hall
Coffee: 3:15 pm – 3:30 pm
Colloquium: 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm