Alex Kwan PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and of Neurobiology
Neural circuits; Inhibitory neurons; Executive functions; Working memory; Decision-making; Action selection; Two-photon microscopy; Optogenetics; Mouse behavior; Electrophysiology
The goal of my laboratory is to understand the neural circuit basis of high-level cognitive functions, which are essential for goal-directed behavior and commonly impaired in psychiatric disorders. Using the mouse as a model enables us to apply a diverse set of tools, including in vivo two-photon imaging, optogenetics, and patch-clamp electrophysiology, to relate neural activity to behavior. We are particularly interested in the prefrontal and cingulate cortices that are central nodes of the cognitive circuits.
Extensive Research Description
My laboratory is engaged in two major problems. One, can we break down cognitive behaviors into component processes and determine how they are implemented in the brain? We have trained head-fixed mice to perform a variety of operant tasks involving perceptual decision-making, timing, and short-term memory. In behaving mice, we use optical methods to image and control neuronal ensemble activity. We are exploiting these paradigms to study the roles of cell types, neural pathways, and neuromodulation in cognitive behaviors. Two, how do mental illnesses and psychiatric drugs impact neural activity? We want to bring our expertise in cellular resolution optical imaging to study the actions of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs on cortical microcircuits. We are working with other basic and clinical research groups on this topic.