Markus Meister has a formal background in physics and 30 years’ experience in experimental and computational neuroscience. His research focus has been on neural circuits and computations in sensory systems: vision, olfaction and vomeronasal sensation. Early on, Meister pioneered the use of multi-electrode arrays for parallel recording from retinal neurons. Together with new approaches to visual stimulation, this helped reveal what visual processing is accomplished in the retina. Meister’s laboratory also showed how one can capture the neural code of the retina with computational models and why the retina might perform this way from the perspective of normative theories. A parallel research program on the early olfactory system showed that the rules of early sensory processing there are quite different from those in the retina, counter to prior claims.
More recently, Meister’s attention has turned to the connections between sensory processing and animal behavior, specifically to innate behaviors that are visually guided. Meister’s laboratory wants to understand how the many parallel pathways emerging from the retina map onto the animal’s ethological needs. To trace these pathways into the brain, his group has developed new tools, such as a wireless system for electrical recording from animals in the wild and an optical recording approach to neural population activity in the superior colliculus.
Throughout his career, he has enjoyed collaborating with colleagues who have complementary talents and viewpoints. Through recent collaborations with David Anderson and Ralph Adolphs, and his involvement with the Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain, Meister was introduced to the mysteries and challenges of autism research and is eager to learn and to apply the skills and expertise of his research group to provide a unique approach to autism research.