Our cognitive life depends on our ability to generate internal representations of the external world. Internal representations can be driven by the external stimuli (e.g., perceptions) or can be internally-generated in their absence (e.g., imagining, memory). The dynamic interplay between externally-driven and internally-generated representations is thought to be disrupted in neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease. The long-term goal of the lab is to map and dissect the neural circuits and decipher the neuronal codes underlying the formation of internal representations within hippocampal-neocortical networks that support innate and learned behavior, with implications for our understanding of neuropsychiatric diseases.
Learned information is not encoded in isolation, but is integrated within a network of preexisting knowledge stored in patterns of neuronal ensemble functional connectivity. Our immediate goal is to investigate:
1. How these patterns emerge during development
2. How are they utilized in behavior
3. How are they disrupted in neuropsychiatric diseases.
The hippocampus, a brain structure initially implicated in rapid learning and formation of episodic memory, is now recognized to encode internally-generated spatial-temporal sequence representations. Its dysfunctions have resulted in anterograde amnesia, impaired imagining of new experiences, and hallucinations. Achieving our goal will be facilitated by our use of electrophysiological recordings of ensembles of neurons in behaving mice and rats, optogenetic manipulation of neurons, optical imaging of neuronal ensembles, and computational methods for decoding neuronal population activity.
Behavior, Animal; Cognition; Electrophysiology; Hippocampus; Learning; Neuronal Plasticity; Spatial Behavior; Spatial Memory; Psychiatry and Psychology