Neuronal Circuits and Behavior Group

The Neuronal circuits and behavior group studies neuronal circuits regulating innate behaviors, including feeding-related behaviors. Our aim is to reveal and decode functions of various hypothalamic neuronal circuits in these behaviors in health and disease.

Research interests

The Neuronal circuits and behavior group studies neuronal circuits regulating different aspects of innate behaviors, including feeding-related behaviors. The overall goal of our group is to unravel functions of hypothalamic neuronal circuits in health and disease. We aim to decode neuronal mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disorders, associated with dysfunctions of hypothalamus, including eating disorders. To reveal and decode influence of various neuronal groups and their inputs on innate behaviors, we combine state-of-the-art technologies including multisite high-density neuronal recordings in transgenic behaving mice (Fig. 1a), calcium imaging (Fig.1b), optogenetics, chemogenetics, subsecond behavioral analysis as well as novel computational and engineering approaches. 

Fig.1 a) Combination of in vivo electrophysiology and optogenetics enables manipulations of activity of defined cells (left, LH GABA cells) and optoidentification of these cells (right). Modified from Herrera et al., Nat., Neurosci., 2016. b) Calcium imaging enables longitudinal recordings of the same neurons over days. A. Petzold, unpublished. 

To directly address these issues, our group aims to (1) characterize the structure, dynamics and functions of hypothalamic neuronal networks as well as to causally investigate the role of neurochemically defined neuronal groups in the lateral hypothalamus for different aspects of feeding behaviours and other innate behaviors. Feeding is largely regulated by the lateral hypothalamus (LH), a brain region comprising multiple neurochemically defined cell types. We have currently investigated a role of GABA LH cells in locomotion (Fig. 2a), arousal (Fig. 2b) and food intake (Fig. 2c). We now study a role of other neurochemically defined LH cell types in innate behaviors using electrophysiology and calcium imaging in behaving animals. Further, we aim to understand the functions of top-down projections onto the LH in feeding-related and other innate behaviours.

Figure 2. a) Activity of LH cells is increased during locomotion. Bender et al., Nature Commun. 2015. b) Activity of GABA LH cells is increased upon transitions from non-REM sleep to wakefulness. Herrera et al, Nature Neurosci 2016.  c) Optogenetic activation of GABA LH cells leads to preferential activation of food zone-match cells (left, middle) and to an increase of food intake (right). Carus-Cadavieco et al., Nature 2017.

Recent publications and press releases:

Carus-Cadavieco et al., Nature 2017 

Press release

Bender et al., Nature Comm. 2015

Press release

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