The Laboratory of Neural Systems, Decision Science, Learning and Memory (NSDSLM) seeks to understand plasticity mechanisms within neural systems that underlie normal and pathological mnemonic functions. Our animal model, experience-dependent navigation, is a natural and essential, yet complex, learning system that is often impaired when one or more part of its broad, underlying neural circuit is compromised, such as in Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and brain injury, as well as in cases of drug addiction.
Experience-dependent navigation requires the proper function, and integration, of neural activity located in different learning and memory-related brain structures (e.g. the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and the striatum). Activity in these structures is supported and regulated by other areas of brain that mediate sensation, perception, the selection of appropriate responses, and the evaluation of the outcomes of behaviors. Thus, we take a broad neural systems perspective to study the interactions between multiple brain systems during active navigation. Specifically, we use genetic, cellular, and neural circuit methods in freely behaving rodents to uncover the neural and behavioral mechanisms that underlie one’s ability to learn and remember spatial context-dependent new information, and to make appropriate decisions that guide future navigational choices.