The European Research Council (ERC) funds top researchers who engage in pioneering research, at the frontier of knowledge in their field. Congratulations to Balazs Rozsa Institute of Experimental Medicine of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Hungary) who received international scientific prize and award in 2015.
The long-term aim of the investigation is to assess the feasibility of creating an “artificial sense”, a possible sensory (visual) prosthetic. Working towards this goal, we have to assess how neural assembly activity relates to subjective perceptions and behaviour. What we try to do is finding and understanding these functional assemblies and eventually reactivate them in a precise, biologically relevant manner, so that we elicit similar cortical activation as does the “real” visual stimulation. Functional cortical connectivity can be mapped precisely and in a large volume by two-photon microscopy. Here we develop a novel 3D Acousto-Optical microscope for high-throughput assembly mapping. The microscope will be capable of scanning neuronal activity with high speed and simultaneously photoactivate neurons with high efficiency and subcellular precision in the entire V1 region of the cortex. Using our microscope in combination with novel caged neurotransmitters and optogenetic tools, we want to map cell assemblies and to understand how they form larger clusters and how they are associated with visual features. As a proof-of-concept, we want to restore visual perception by recreating previously mapped assembly patterns with 3D artificial photositmulation in behaving mice and see if the animal responds to the artificial stimulus in the same way as to the visual stimulus. Moreover, we want to restore visual information based spatial navigation in head restrained animals orienting and moving in a virtual labyrinth for reward.