What we do

The basal ganglia and interconnected cortical, amygdalar and thalamic circuits subserve several crucial brain functions including reward-based learning, motor learning, motivated behavior and stress-related behaviors. Our lab seeks to understand the role of basal ganglia circuit-specific organization in animal models of neuropsychiatric disease. To address the anatomical and functional properties of basal ganglia circuitry, our lab develops and applies a variety of strategies to identify, characterize, and manipulate specific neural circuits in mice. By combining cell-type and projection-specific labeling approaches with in vivo recording, pharmacology, and optogenetics, we explore how these neurons may drive specific behaviors. Moreover, we also determine how these circuits change in animal models of disease and whether these changes are relevant to disease-relevant phenotypes.

Social disorder

Social interactions are prevalent throughout everyday life and can engender positive or negative emotions. Positive social interactions have been shown to promote successful navigation through difficult experiences. However, social withdrawal and negative associations with social experiences are characteristic of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD). This part of the lab aims to understand the neural circuits that underlie maladapted social behaviors.

D​rug addiction and decision making

Decision making is an integral part of an animal's every day behavior. Normal decision making is affected by substance use, and chronic substance abuse causes long term changes throughout the brain. In this group, we seek to understand the neural substrates of decision making, the changes associated with substance abuse, and how abuse affects decision making.

Motor disorders

The primary measure of neurological health is through the motor system. Indeed, motor dysfunction is one of the cardinal symptoms of many neurological diseases and affects motor-related areas throughout the brain. In this part of the lab, we want to identify how motor circuits encode movement, how these circuits are involved in learning, and how these circuits change in animal models of movement disorders.