Joshua Trachtenberg

Professor, Neurobiology, University of California Los Angeles

(310) 825-0873

503 NRB

NRB 503
Los Angeles, CA 90095

My lab is interested in understanding how our earliest sensory experiences pattern synaptic connections in the cortex and how this, in turn, shapes the function of neural circuitry. We explore this in the visual system, including primary visual cortex, higher visual cortical regions, superior colliculus, amygdala, and thalamus. Vision is the primary sense we use to evaluate social structures, individual faces, threats, and rewards. Our goal is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which early experiences instruct synpatic connectivity, network connectivity, and network function in cortical circuits. We also wish to understand how these experiential changes shape behavior. Our work employs sophisticated imaging and molecular techniques, including longitudinal multi-photon imaging of genetically encoded calcium indicators that are expressed in specific cell types, and single cell transcriptomics.


Joshua Trachtenberg’s research seeks to understand how sensory experiences are written into the fabric of our brains.  Genetics plays a dominant role in wiring together the connections between neurons that establish neural circuitry.  After we are born, our brains are bombarded with information from the world around us.  This sensory information changes neural circuitry, allowing us to learn a language, perform complex visual discrimination, obtain sophisticated motor skills, and learn the subtleties of social interactions.  How this external sensory information instructs neural circuitry is not known.  Given its centrality to complex thought, tackling this question is of some significance.  The Trachtenberg lab employs a sophisticated array of vital imaging and physiological tools to reveal the richness and mechanisms of this experience-dependent plasticity.