a cortical circuits & behavior lab



Cortical neurons represent sensory and motor features. What circuit mechanisms shape cortical coding? Which neurons drive behavior? Our lab addresses these questions using optical approaches in head fixed mice.

Cellular basis of perception

By combining carefully designed behavioral assays with advanced optical techniques, we hope to determine the minimal subset of neurons whose perturbation can impact behavior.

Circuit mechanisms driving receptive fields

In sensory cortex, neurons with common tuning are more interconnected than neurons with distinct tuning. We are probing how such connectivity enables computations like amplification, pattern completion, and feature detection.

Automated analysis pipelines

Our experiments depend on rapid turnaround of terabyte-scale datasets. We are developing pipelines to process data acquired during calcium imaging and behavioral videography, and to relate neural activity to behavior.


Quantitative behavior

Approaches such as high speed videography and image processing allow precise measurements of the behavioral state of the animal. Tasks are designed so that even subtle changes in the animal's behavior can be detected.

Two-photon calcium imaging

Two-photon microscopy using modern calcium indicators allows us to record the activity of thousands of cortical neurons during behavior. Neurons can be tracked over months, and structural indicators can label cell types.

Mesoscale mapping

A prerequisite to exploring the behavioral roles of neurons is understanding the spatial distribution of functional neural types. We are actively generating mesoscale maps of cortex during behavior, on the 10K-100K neuron scale.

Cellular resolution perturbation

Neurons encoding particular features are often intermingled with other neuron types. Approaches like multiphoton ablation and two-photon optogenetics allow for lesioning and activation with cellular precision, making it possible to target intermingled populations.



Recurrent interactions in local cortical circuits

Peron SP, Pancholi R, Voelcker B, Wittenbach JD, Olafsdottier FH, Freeman J, Svoboda K

2020, Nature


Comprehensive imaging of cortical networks

Peron SP, Chen TW, Svoboda K

2015, Curr. Opinion Neurobiology


A cellular resolution map of barrel cortex activity during tactile behavior

Peron SP, Freeman J, Iyer V, Guo C, Svoboda K

2015, Neuron


Multiple dynamic representations in the motor cortex during sensorimotor learning

Huber D, Gutnisky DA, Peron SP, O'Connor DH, Wiegert JS, Tian L, Oertner TG, Looger LL, Svoboda K

2012, Nature


From cudgel to scalpel: toward precise neural control with optogenetics

Peron SP, Svoboda K

2011, Nature Methods (outlook)


Neural activity in barrel cortex underlying vibrissa-based object localization in mice

O'Connor DH, Peron SP, Huber D, Svoboda K

2010, Neuron


Complete list of publications, PubMed


Simon Peron, PhD

Principal Investigator

Simon earned his PhD with Fabrizio Gabbiani at Baylor College of Medicine, studying single neuron computation in the context of insect vision. He did his postdoctoral work with Karel Svoboda at Janelia Farm, working on mechanisms of cortical processing in the behaving mouse using two-photon microscopy.

Ravi Pancholi

Graduate Student

Ravi joined the lab in 2018 and is studying how optogenetic microstimulation of barrel cortex drives cortical plasticity and perception.

Tina Voelcker

Graduate Student

Tina joined the lab in 2018 and is studying how vibrissal sensory representations arise from network interactions in L4-L2.

Lauren Ryan

Graduate Student

Lauren joined the lab in 2019 and is studying the role of vibrissal cortex in behavior using a barrel-scale laser lesion approach she developed.



We are actively recruiting post-docs and PhD candidates. If you are interested in our science, especially with respect to the projects below, please get in touch!

Circuit mechanisms giving rise to cortical receptive fields

Since the discovery of complex and simple cells by Hubel and Wiesel in visual cortex, neuroscientists have sought to understand the circuit mechanisms that give rise to specific receptive fields in sensory cortex. In barrel cortex, receptive field complexity increases from L4 to L2: neurons that respond to a single direction of touch for one whisker become rarer, while neurons that either respond to both directions or multiple whiskers become more frequent. We have an NIH-funded project (NINDS R01 NS117536) to study how local circuit interactions between various cell classes contribute to receptive field structure. This project combines in vivo behavior, volumetric calcium imaging, and cellular resolution perturbation techniques like multiphoton ablation and two-photon optogenetics to tease apart the way in which local circuits transform receptive fields in primary sensory cortex, and how these interactions influence perception.

Cellular and circuit basis of perception in the context of optical microstimulation

Understanding how circuit interactions drive perception is a central goal of systems neuroscience. We recently developed an all-optical approach to address this question, combining one-photon optical microstimulation with volumetric calcium imaging to study how cortex changes as it is exposed to a novel perceptually-relevant activation pattern. This project will ask, first, how deviations from the trained activity pattern influence perception - that is, how do factors like timing and neuron identity impact perceptual readout. Second, we seek to understand the rules governing how changes in cortical activity drive reorgnization of the underlying cortical network.


Peron Lab

Center for Neural Science

New York University

4 Washington Place, Rm. 809

New York, NY 10003