Vikaas Sohal, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor
Psychiatry
415-502-7377

Information Processing in Cortical Microcircuits: Optogenetic Tools and Implications for Psychiatric Disease

We study circuits in the prefrontal cortex in order to understand (1) how the properties of individual prefrontal neurons, their inputs, and their interconnections give rise to emergent patterns of circuit activity, and (2) how these patterns of activity contribute to both normal cognition and the pathological behaviors associated with neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. We believe that by understanding the process through which patterns of prefrontal circuit activity are generated, we can better understand the computations these circuits perform, and obtain a “map” of circuit function that will make it possible to identify ways of correcting circuit dysfunction in disease states. We carry out studies at multiple levels ranging from brain slices to freely behaving animals, and using a combination of techniques including optogenetics, computational modeling, whole cell recording, calcium imaging, EEG and LFP recording, and sophisticated behavioral assays. We are also part of the DARPA SUBNETS project, and in collaboration with our partner laboratories, we are working to (1) identify large scale patterns of activity in the human brain associated with neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety and (2) design new forms of responsive brain stimulation that treat these conditions.

Current Projects

  1. How are different classes of neurons in the prefrontal cortex "wired up?"
  2. How do neuromodulators such as dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine modulate prefronal circuit function and thereby regulate behavior?
  3. What are the roles of various subtypes of GABAergic neurons, and of synchronized neural oscillations in circuit function?
  4. How are prefrontal circuits altered in diseases such as schizophrenia and autism?

Lab Members

Ian Ellwood, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
ian.ellwood@ucsf.edu

Kathleen Cho, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
kathleen.cho@ucsf.edu

Audrey Brumback, MD, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
audrey.brumback@ucsf.edu

Lowry Kirkby, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
lowry.kirby@ucsf.edu

Jillian Iafrati, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
jillian.iafrati@ucsf.edu

Scott Wilke, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
scott.wilke@ucsf.edu

Karuna Meda
Neuroscience Graduate Student
karuna.meda@ucsf.edu

Sarah Robinson
Neuroscience Graduate Student
sarah.robinson@ucsf.edu

Jiggy Athilingam
Neuroscience Graduate Student
jiggy.athilingam@ucsf.edu

Margaret Cunniff
Neuroscience Graduate Student
margaret.cunniff@ucsf.edu

Anthony Lee
Neuroscience Graduate Student
anthony.lee@ucsf.edu

Nicholas Frost, MD, PhD
Neurology Resident
nicholas.frost@ucsf.edu

Tosha Patel
Junior Specialist / Lab Manager
tosha.patel@ucsf.edu

Jennifer Dwyer
Specialist
jennifer.dwyer@ucsf.edu

Varun Wadia
Junior SRA
varun.wadia@ucsf.edu

Suraj Nagaraj
Junior SRA
suraj.nagaraj@ucsf.edu

Helia Seifikar
Junior SRA
helia.seifikar@ucsf.edu

Lab Website

Publications: