Our research seeks to characterize and modulate the precise circuits in the brain that underlie both adaptive and maladaptive processes in reward, motivation, and associative learning, to develop improved treatments for complex and devastating psychiatric disorders.
Defining the neural dysfunction that underlies psychiatric disease.
Our research is guided by two overarching questions:
1. How do neural circuits integrate experiences with positive and negative stimuli to guide future behavior?
2. What are the molecular dysregulations that drive maladaptation in these processes?
One of the most fundamental forms of learning is the ability to associate positive and negative stimuli with cues that predict their occurrence. The ability to seek out rewarding stimuli and avoid negative stimuli is critical to survival and is evolutionarily conserved across species. Organisms achieve this by assigning value to cues that predict these stimuli; however, dysregulation of these processes can precipitate a number of psychiatric disease states. Addiction, depression, and anxiety are all examples of syndromes characterized in part by dysregulation of associative learning. These are among the most prevalent neuropsychiatric disorders and are highly comorbid. Therefore, understanding the neural mechanisms governing associative learning has widespread implications for developing treatment interventions for psychiatric disease. Our work aims to combine cutting edge technology with comprehensive models of psychiatric disease to understand the circuit and molecular dysregulation that underlies these disorders.