The Ryan Lab investigates the fundamental neuroscience of memory. We employ a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach in order to understand how memories are encoded, stored, and retrieved in the brain. To this end we utilize a wide range of experimental techniques including optogenetics, engram cell labelling, mouse transgenics, pharmacology, electrophysiology, in vivo calcium imaging, and behavioural analysis.
The central question we aim to address is how is memory coded in the brain as information? At the most fundamental level, memory is information that is encoded into the brain through a process of learning. We refer to the specific change in the brain that accounts for a particular learned piece of information as a memory engram.
Memory engrams must exist somewhere in our brains and the scientific challenge is firstly to find them and secondly to understand how they function. Genetic techniques have allowed us to identify subsets of cells that are activated by particular experiences, and manipulation of these cells has demonstrated that they contribute to the representation of specific memories. These cells also undergo various forms of physiological and biological plasticity (change) due to learning, which may account for information storage. Our group focuses on understanding how various forms of neuronal plasticity contribute essentially to memory information coding and functionality.