The Big Picture
The focus of our research is to investigate the neurobiological mechanisms supporting learning and memory using Pavlovian fear conditioning in rats as a model system. Fear conditioning lends itself well towards answering basic questions about how the brain supports learning and memory. We can also use this form of learning to understand the neurobiological basis of atypical fear responses, which may ultimately help us to identify the underlying mechanisms of fear and anxiety based disorders such as PTSD.
There are several lines of research currently ongoing in the laboratory. One project is focused on understanding how prior behavioral experience can influence subsequent learning. We also have studies underway examining how sex affects fear learning and its supporting neurobiology, and another program of study designed to understand the mechanisms underlying individual differences in fear learning.
The Tools we Use
We assess fear learning and memory in rats by measuring experience-dependent changes in freezing behavior and fear-potentiated acoustic startle. We measure learning related changes in neural activity through a variety of protein expression methods including immunohistochemistry and Western Blotting.
To determine how specific neurobiological processes support learning and memory we manipulate brain function using pharmacological and chemogenetic methods.