Neuroscience, the study of neuron and brain function, is among the most rapidly-expanding of biological disciplines. Neuroscientists in the Department of Molecular Biology focus primarily on systems, computational, and cellular questions, with an emphasis on the neural basis of learning and behavior. Specific projects address questions in visual processing, decision-making, social communication, working memory, spatial navigation, autism, and immune protein function in synapses. We ask these questions at levels ranging from single neurons and synapses to behaving animals.
Department neuroscientists use a variety of powerful technologies ranging from genetics and cell biology of model organisms such as mice, worms, flies to multi-photon imaging of neurons in action. A major strength of the community is the use of "NIH BRAIN Initiative"-style tools for manipulating and mapping brain circuitry. Examples of such methods include in vivo optical observation of brain activity using multiphoton microscopy; detailed quantitative analysis of animal behavior; computational analysis of complex data; viral-assisted gene delivery to manipulate, monitor, and trace neural circuits; the use and refinement of genetically encoded activity sensors; and transgenic organisms. These tools are used to help understand how information in the brain is represented (neural coding) and changes over time (neural dynamics) to support complex behaviors. Neuroscience faculty in Molecular Biology are jointly appointed to the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, which houses the Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics, a center that focuses on the development and application of microscopy imaging techniques for measuring neural circuit dynamics in the functioning brain.