The nervous system is exquisitely tuned to mount the appropriate behavioral response to sensory stimuli ranging from a gentle caress to a harsh mechanical insult. How our nervous systems encode this information, from the level of sensory neuron activation in peripheral tissues up towards the central nervous system, in both normal and diseased states, remains enigmatic. Taking advantage of mouse molecular and genetic tools, the Abdus-Saboor lab is addressing important questions about sensory system perception – from the level of the gene to the level of organismal behavior. Using an integrative approach spanning molecular optogenetics, quantitative analysis of kinematic behavioral movement features, neural circuit tracing, in vivo calcium imaging, and electrophysiology, our overall goal is to increase our basic understanding of the mechanisms governing somatosensory encoding, with a particular focus on pain.

Below are a few examples of us using mouse genetics to target the light-sensitive ion channel, ChR2, to different populations of neurons that respond to mechanical, thermal, discriminative touch, or pleasant touch sensations. We can turn on these sensations with light in freely behaving animals. At the very bottom of the page are examples of activation of mechanical-sensitive neurons in vivo. 

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ChR2 is targeted to mechanical-sensing neurons, labeled in green, via Mrgprd-Cre
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ChR2 is targeted to cold-sensing neurons, labeled in green, via   TrpM8-Cre. 
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ChR2 is targeted to discriminative-touch-sensing neurons, labeled in green, via    Split-Cre.
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ChR2 is targeted to discriminative-touch-sensing neurons, labeled in green, via    Split-Cre. Shown here is the neuron-schwann cell sensory organ - the pacinian corpuscle.
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ChR2 is targeted to a subset of so called pleasant-touch-sensing neurons (and a few other types), labeled in cyan, via Vglut3-Cre