Research

Our laboratory is interested in characterizing the neural systems underlying complex behaviors, in particular motivation and executive function.  We are interested in how these systems function normally as well as how they are dysregulated in psychiatric disease (such as addiction, depression, ADHD, and compulsive behaviors).

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We are interested in behavioral models where animals make decisions about natural rewards and/or drugs of abuse

 

 

 

We study these systems using techniques such as electrophysiology, optogenetics, pharmacology, and cellular imaging in awake, behaving animals to establish a relationship between nervous system function and behavior.

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 Activity of four neurons recorded simultaneously from one electrode in the orbitofrontal cortex

 

 

 

A major component of our work involves understanding how specific populations of neurons uniquely and in combination contribute to behavior.

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ChR2-mCherry expression in hypocretin/orexin neurons of the lateral hypothalamus

 

 

 

 

We are also interested in neural coding – understanding the mechanism by which populations of neurons work together to shape behavior.  We collaborate with statisticians and computer scientists to develop models of neural function.

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Cartoon of a model of synchronous activation of six neurons recorded simultaneously in the medial prefrontal cortex