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Our lab investigates the neural circuits that underlie the regulation of behavior by cognition and emotion. We are interested in understanding how internal state and environmental structure shape the functional operation of neural circuits, and how behavior is organized to enable adaptive balancing of behavioral priorities between short and long timescales. We use an observational and causal approach, combining monitoring and decoding of neural activity with control of defined circuit elements.

 

Many of our research projects are focused on the serotonergic dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) and the dopaminergic ventral tegmental area (VTA). These small brainstem nuclei send projections widely throughout the brain and are in a prime position to globally influence brain state.  Neurons in these regions encode quantities including reward prediction error, expected reward, stress, and arousal.  What kind of information is transmitted to these regions, and how is this information used to construct these quantities?  How do these regions influence downstream neural signaling?  What behavioral and cognitive consequences result from changes in afferent and efferent information flow?

 

We investigate these questions by perturbing selected circuit elements and observing the effects on both neural activity and behavior.  In pursuit of these goals, the lab employs a multidisciplinary approach combining imaging, optogenetics, anatomy, high-density freely moving neurophysiology, patch clamp electrophysiology, behavior, and computation.