I am interested in how the brain automates motivated behaviors, and how neural circuits that evolved to serve this function change to promote maladaptive automation (e.g., addiction, compulsion).
To better understand these processes, I use genetic-targeting strategies to manipulate and record activity from dopamine neurons in the midbrain and their projection target, medium spiny neurons, in the striatum. I employ calcium imaging using miniaturized fluorescent microscopes and different behavioral tasks to visualize neuronal activity during the shift from outcome-dependent (flexible) to outcome-independent (automated) behavior.
In addition, I am interested in how deep-brain stimulation (DBS) works on the cellular and circuit level, and how this important therapy can modulate compulsive behaviors. To this end, I employ a genetic knock-out mouse model (Sapap3) that shows compulsive behavior and record genetically-defined neurons while stimulating specific circuits using DBS.