Laboratory of Learning and Memory
Core Facility/Service Laboratory
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My research falls into the broad category of the neural mediation of learning and memory. It has become increasingly clear that complex cognitive functions arise from the interactions of multiple interconnected brain regions that comprise functional circuits. Therefore, I have adopted a systems level approach which involves simultaneously monitoring the neuronal activity in several interconnected brain regions during learning in rodents. This approach is especially powerful when combined with injections of micro-quantities of chemical inactivating agents directly into discrete brain regions in order to temporarily ‘knock out’ individual components of the circuit. In this way, the functioning of the healthy and temporarily ‘damaged’ circuits can be compared and the behavioral consequences of the damage can be assessed. Behavior is the cornerstone of this approach, so neuronal activity is monitored throughout learning using well-controlled training procedures. Changes in neuronal response patterns can then be specifically associated with learning and learning impairments can be attributed to damage within the circuit and the resulting disruption of neuronal response patterns.