James Priestley, Ph.D.

My research focuses on the population structure of neural representations in the hippocampus and its cortical partners, and how that structure relates to the statistics of the world that an animal experiences.

While these brain regions are famously appreciated for encoding an animal's physical location, their neural responses are often much more complex, multi-sensory, and variable over time. My work aims to explore this heterogeneity, searching for general principles for organizing hippocampal coding beyond space that could refine our understanding of its role in memory formation.

To this end, we are using virtual reality in behaving mice to flexibly modify the spatial and temporal structure of experience. Combined with large-scale optical and electrophysiological recordings and network modeling, we are investigating mechanisms for how these features sculpt representation learning in hippocampal-cortical circuits.

I completed my PhD in the laboratories of Attila Losonczy and Stefano Fusi at Columbia University, studying the dynamics of neural populations in the mouse hippocampus during learning and memory. My thesis investigated how hippocampal networks: enable associative memory for events separated in time; modulate their plasticity mechanisms to rapidly encode novel experience; and organize efficient representations for memory storage. Previously I worked with Howard Eichenbaum, investigating how cortical inputs contributed to temporal coding by hippocampal neurons, and their influence on memory-guided behavior.