Cindy Poo, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow, Champalimaud Foundation

Cindy Poo is a postdoctoral fellow at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal. She received her undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Brown University and completed her doctoral training at the University of California, San Diego with Dr. Jeffry Isaacson, where she identified synaptic mechanisms underlying odor-evoked activity in olfactory cortex using in vitro and in vivo patch-clamp electrophysiology.

As a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Zachary Mainen, she focuses on the neural systems and computations underlying olfactory behaviors in rodents. There, her discovery that the olfactory cortex carries not only odor information, but also a robust spatial map of the environment, uncovered a circuit in which incoming sensory evidence and internally constructed cognitive variables converge. Cindy now plans to combine techniques such as quantitative behavioral paradigms, targeted manipulations, and modern high-throughput recording methods to study how computations across interconnected sensory and cognitive brain networks support flexible behaviors such as olfactory-guided navigation.

Research Plan

“Mechanisms and function of sensory cognitive maps”

Our brains weave together streams of sensory information with internal models of the world to navigate highly complex and dynamic environments. Odors are a uniquely powerful part of the sensory landscape that animals rely on for critical behaviors such as foraging and navigation. My new lab will leverage the rich repertoire of olfactory and spatial behaviors in rodents to understand how sensory and cognitive networks interact to support flexible and ethologically important behaviors. We will ask: 1) What are the synaptic and circuit mechanisms that combine olfactory cues and spatial maps in the brain? 2) How is new sensory evidence integrated into existing cognitive maps? 3) What are the computations and transformations across interconnected sensory and cognitive networks that support flexible behavior?
To address these questions, we will use a combination of in vitro and in vivo synaptic physiology, targeted circuit manipulations, modern high-throughput neural recordings during behavior, and neural population analyses grounded in normative theories of neural computation. Ultimately, by connecting experimental data to computational models and theory, we aim to identify general principles governing the dynamic integration of incoming sensory evidence and internal cognitive variables during flexible and adaptive behaviors.

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