Brain disorders and mental illness represent a tremendous social and economic burden, with few effective treatments. The goal of our research is to identify the causes of brain conditions, and develop interventions to restore healthy function using synaptic plasticity and neuromodulation.
We study the striatum, an important brain region for both simple and complex movements and cognitive functions. The striatum contains a variety of cell types, which receive synaptic input from many different sources and relay information through the basal ganglia. We examine the function of neural circuits formed by striatal synapses that connect specific sources and targets.
Our multidisciplinary approach includes quantitative analysis of gene expression; genetic and molecular manipulations of neural circuits; measurement of synaptic function and plasticity using electrophysiology; and optogenetic stimulation of circuits in brain slices and behaving animals.
Our current research focuses on autism spectrum disorders and drug addiction - two seemingly distinct brain conditions that appear to affect overlapping elements of striatal circuitry.