Dendritic excitability in vivo

Neuronal dendrites support a range of nonlinear modes of synaptic integration, which can enhance the computational capacity of neural circuitry. To explore this, we make direct electrical recordings from neuronal dendrites in awake mice using specially optimized instrumentation. (Smith et al. 2013 Nature)

Next generation 2-photon imaging

We have developed new optical systems for imaging neuronal activity with single neuron resolution across multiple cortical areas. We are developing further advances and new approaches to extend multiphoton imaging to even larger brain volumes. (Stirman et al. 2014 bioRxiv preprint)

Development of cortical circuitry

Experience sculpts cortical circuitry to generate computational neural architecture that supports behavior. We are exploring the principles of this refinement in mouse visual cortical circuitry. (Smith and Trachtenberg 2007 Nature Neuroscience; Smith et al. under review)

Neuronal population dynamics

We are exploring population dynamics with single cell resolution to elucidate principles of circuit architecture, dynamics, and computation. We are currently using this technology to explore activity in primary and higher visual cortical areas in mice. (Smith and Hausser 2010 Nature Neuroscience; Smith et al. under review)

Mouse models of disease

Complex neurodevelopmental disorders including autism involve sensory processing (DSM-V) and experience depenedent development of neural circuitry. We are examining circuit deficits in genetic mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders to better understand the pathology and potential interventions. (Townsend, et al. unpublished)

Quantitative behavior

To explore cellular and population activity in a context in which behaviorally relevant mechanisms are engaged, we have developed and optimized insturmentation to explore quantitative psychophysical behavior guided by complex visual stimuli. (Stirman et al. unpublished)

Selected Recent Publications

Email us for reprints.


Stream-dependent development of higher visual cortical areas.
Smith IT, Townsend LB, Huh R, Zhu H, Smith SL
Nature Neuroscience (2017)

Genotype- and sex-dependent effects of altered Cntnap2 expression on the function of visual cortical areas.
Townsend LB, Smith SL
Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (2017)

UBE3A loss increases excitability and blunts orientation tuning in the visual cortex of Angelman syndrome model mice.
Wallace ML, van Woerden GM, Elgersma Y, Smith SL, Philpot BD
Journal of Neurophysiology (2017)


Wide field-of-view, twin-region, two-photon imaging of neural activity in the mammalian brain.
Stirman JN, Smith IT, Kudenov MW, Smith SL
Nature Biotechnology (2016)

A touchscreen based global motion perception task for mice.
Stirman JN, Townsend LB, Smith SL
Vision Research (2016)

Improving data quality in neuronal population recordings.
Harris KD, Quiroga RQ, Freeman J, Smith SL
Nature Neuroscience (2016)

Technologies for imaging neural activity in large volumes.
Ji N, Freeman J, Smith SL
Nature Neuroscience (2016)

Bcl-xL Is Essential for the Survival and Function of Differentiated Neurons in the Cortex That Control Complex Behaviors.
Nakamura A, Swahari V, Plestant C, Smith I, McCoy E, Smith S, Moy SS, Anton ES, Deshmukh M
Journal of Neuroscience (2016)

Maternal Loss of Ube3a Impairs Experience-Driven Dendritic Spine Maintenance in the Developing Visual Cortex.
Kim H, Kunz PA, Mooney R, Philpot BD, Smith SL
Journal of Neuroscience (2016)

All publications


  • Two-photon calcium imaging of somatic and dendritic calcium transients, with simultaneous dendritic recordings, provided the most direct evidence of local dendritic spiking. YATES, NATURE REVIEWS NEUROSCIENCE 14, 815 (2013)

  • A technically impressive study, combining in vivo patch-clamp recording of dendrites together with calcium imging of the soma in primary visual cortex of anaesthetized and awake mice, demonstrates that dendritic spikes occur in vivo and contribute to orientation selectivity. BRUNEL ET AL., CURRENT OPINION IN NEUROBIOLOGY 25:149-155 (2014)

  • By zooming into the mouse visual system with a two-photon microscope, Smith and Hausser provide important insights into how cortex produces diverse functional tuning under the constraint of low divergence. Their work will serve as a valuable reference for imaging the visual system at finer resolution in other species. SIROTIN AND DAS, NATURE NEUROSCIENCE 13, 1045 (2010)

  • It's a remarkable discovery — one that's [providing] important insights into the role that dendrites play in brain circuitry and function. DVORSKY, IO9 (2013)

  • This is a reference point to minimize electrode size and increase the spatial density in MEAs [microelectrode arrays]. ROTHSCHILD, FRONTIERS IN NEUROENGINEERING (2010)


We also run the blog Labrigger.

Here's the lab's Tumblr feed: pictures and notes on life in SLAB.

SLAB has been fortunate to recieve generous support from multiple sources, including the HFSP, the Klingenstein Foundation, the Whitehall Foundation, the Simons Foundation, the NSF, the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, and the NIH (NINDS and NEI).

We are always happy to hear from highly qualified and motivated individuals who are interested in potentially joining the lab.

  • Exploring neural circuits and behavior with innovative instrumentation