The nervous system is organized into a collection of neural subsystems that are interconnected in very precise ways in order to generate specific outputs based on information provided by a variety of inputs. For example, an outfielder in baseball may hear the crack of the bat striking a ball and at the same time see the ball arcing toward him. This auditory and visual information is passed to association subsystems where it is integrated with proprioceptive input in order to generate appropriate motor outputs, which enable the fielder to catch the ball. Systems neuroscientists seek to understand how sensory systems encode the sights, sounds, smell and touches that describe the outside world; how this information is integrated with prior experience; and how appropriate motor outputs are generated. This requires not only knowledge of the cellular and molecular properties of nervous tissue, but an understanding of the response properties of the subsystems and their interconnections. Some of the approaches used to study these issues include:
- Immunocytochemical and histological localization of proteins.
- In situ hybridization to localize RNAs.
- Intracellular and extracellular recording of activity in neural tissues.
- Analysis of neural metabolism.
- Monitoring of animal behavior.
- Computer modeling of systems behavior.