a cortical circuits & behavior lab



Cortical activity is crucial to perception. What computations do cortical circuits perform to drive perception? How does cortical activity drive behavior? We use the rodent vibrissal system as a model to address these questions.

Cortical basis of perception

By combining carefully designed behavioral assays with population-scale recording and perturbation, we hope to determine how specific populations impact behavior.

Computation in cortical circuits

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, allowing us to study how cortical dynamics evolve over time.

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.



Columnar scale lesions in barrel cortex degrade tactile discrimination but not detection (preprint)

Ryan L, Laughton M, Sun-Yan A, Pancholi R, Peron SP

2022, BioRxiv


Representational drift influences learning of a sensory cortical microstimulation task (preprint)

Pancholi R, Ryan L, Peron SP

2021, BioRxiv


Transformation of Primary Sensory Cortical Representations from Layer 4 to Layer 2 (preprint)

Voelcker B, Peron SP

2021, BioRxiv


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


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 (MD/PhD) Student

Ravi joined the lab in 2018. Ravi employs optical microstimulation to study the neural basis of perception.

Tina Voelcker

Graduate Student

Tina joined the lab in 2018. Tina is interested in how local circuit interactions in barrel cortex drive responses to complex sensory input.

Lauren Ryan

Graduate Student

Lauren joined the lab in 2019. Lauren's work focuses on the role sensory cortex plays in behavior.

Maya Laughton

Research Technician

Maya joined the lab in 2021. Maya is our master animal wrangler.

Andrew Sun-Yan

Undergraduate Researcher

Andrew joined the lab in 2021.



We are actively recruiting post-docs and PhD candidates. If you are interested in our ongoing projects, please get in touch!

Perceptual role of cortex

Cortical activity has long been known to contribute to perception: nearly a century ago, Penfield and colleagues demonstrated that direct stimulation of somatosensory cortex could evoke natural touch sensations. How do the neurons in the mouse vibrissal cortical areas influence the perception of touch? We use area-scale and cellular-resolution perturbation to ask these questions, both in animals performing natural vibrissal behaviors and in animals using our recently-developd optical microstimulation paradigm. We seek candidates interested in how cortical activity results in specific percepts.

Computations in cortical circuits

Cortex performs a range of computations that ultimately influence behavior. Understanding these computations requires careful measurement of neural activity combined with precise perturbation of circuit elements. We use a range of techniques, including volumetric calcium imaging, multiphoton ablation, and optogenetic approaches to asses how barrel cortex transforms sensory inputs. Building on recent work that revealed increasing receptive field complexity in the most superficial layers of barrel cortex, we seek candidates interested in designing experiments to probe the way in which specific functional classes of excitatory pyramidal neurons interact to produce these receptive fields.

Dynamics of recurrent network formation

Barrel cortex contains groups of touch-sensitive neurons that are recurrently coupled, allowing for computations such as amplification and pattern completion. How do these recurrent networks emerge, and what rules govern their formation? We recently developed an optical microstimulation paradigm that allows us to generate such recurrent networks artificially in mice that then use the evoked activity to drive behavior. We seek candidates interested in building on this work to probe how recurrent cortical networks form in awake animals.


Peron Lab

Center for Neural Science

New York University

4 Washington Place, Rm. 809

New York, NY 10003