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
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Kathleen Cho, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
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Audrey Brumback, MD, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
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Lowry Kirkby, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
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Jillian Iafrati, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
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Scott Wilke, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
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Karuna Meda
Neuroscience Graduate Student
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Sarah Robinson
Neuroscience Graduate Student
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Jiggy Athilingam
Neuroscience Graduate Student
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Margaret Cunniff
Neuroscience Graduate Student
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Anthony Lee
Neuroscience Graduate Student
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Nicholas Frost, MD, PhD
Neurology Resident
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Tosha Patel
Junior Specialist / Lab Manager
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Jennifer Dwyer
Specialist
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Varun Wadia
Junior SRA
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Suraj Nagaraj
Junior SRA
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Helia Seifikar
Junior SRA
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Lab Website

Publications: