Research goals and approach

Visual information is processed in parallel in the brain, across multiple brain regions and cell-types.  To date it remains unclear how these different channels contribute to vision, which circuits they're embedded in and how plastic are their responses and connections.  This lack in knowledge hinders our ability to restore visual function, either through prosthesis or by regenerative approaches. By understanding these circuits and their properties, we can resolve how the brain selects appropriate information, and develop selective strategies that focus on what is essential  to functional vision. 

One of the Savier lab research goal is to understand the distribution of visual information in the brain and how it can be shaped by behavior and experience.  To this end, we 1) identified cell-types along the visual pathway, 2) characterize their connectivity and visual responses and 3) measure changes due to behavioral states and experience.  The development of recent molecular and neuromodulation tools allows us to ask these questions in both mice and tree shrews, looking both at implementation and behavioral outcomes.  This approach allows us to answer fundamental questions about the emergence of visual response properties, their stability and the neuronal encoding of visual information.


Techniques in the lab

Tree shrew and mice:

 The Savier lab uses complementary animal models, the mouse and the tree shrew. Mice have become the gold standard for system neuroscience due to the numerous advantages they offer:  they’re easy to maintain, resilient, display social behavior and thousands of genetically modified strains are readily available. Tree shrews feature an extremely well-developed visual system, visually-driven behavior, and features that are similar to primate. 


Imaging and electrophysiology:

The Savier lab uses electrophysiology and imaging, which have different yields and spatial and temporal resolution. Imaging allows the chronic investigation of neurons and assess how responses vary in different context. In addition, imaging allows the interrogation of the spatial distribution of different cells together with their morphological identification. Electrophysiological and imaging approaches are implemented in parallel and used to simultaneously investigate different brain regions in awake animals.