Graduate Training in Neuroscience
University of Washington
Professor, Department of Psychology
The primary goal of my laboratory is to understand the neural mechanisms by which stress influences brain and behavior. Stress has long been known to impair memory processes in many diverse species. Stress also impairs long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus, a key brain structure implicated in declarative forms of memory. We have discovered that, in contrast to its effect on LTP, stress enhances long-term depression (LTD) in the hippocampus. Moreover, these stress effects on LTP and LTD (two putative synaptic mechanisms of memory storage) appear to be mediated via N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors and to be dependent on the functional integrity of the amygdala. It is conceivable that stress affects learning and memory by altering LTP and LTD inducibility in the hippocampus. Currently, we are employing a variety of learning paradigms (e.g., spatial, emotional, object recognition, and motor tasks) and techniques (e.g., in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology, pharmacology) to systematically characterize the types of learning that are affected by stress and to understand the interaction between multiple memory systems. The other main interests in our lab are to understand the neurobiology of learning and memory by employing classical conditioning as a simple model system and to develop a computational model of associative learning.