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.

 

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

 

To address these questions, we use an observational and causal approach, combining monitoring and decoding of neural activity with control of defined circuit elements.  The lab employs a multidisciplinary approach combining imaging, optogenetics, anatomy, high-density freely moving neurophysiology, patch clamp electrophysiology, behavior, and computation.

 

"On life’s vast ocean diversely we sail,

Reason the card, but passion is the gale;

Nor God alone in the still calm we find,

He mounts the storm, and walks upon the wind"

--Alexander Pope