Activity-dependent dissection of neural circuits that regulate stress-induced behavioral states
Extensive work in humans and model organisms has identified multiple brain regions that influence stress susceptibility. A major unanswered question is what the unique functions are of these different regions, and more specifically, what distinct cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects of stress-induced behavioral states these regions influence. Answering this question is essential for understanding how abnormal activity in different neural pathways can result in related yet distinct pathology, and in the long run should lead to more objective, neurobiologically-based diagnoses and treatments for clinically distinct stress-related mental illnesses.
To attack this problem, we have developed and are employing a novel system for activity-dependent genetic marking to target distinct subsets of stress-activated neurons throughout the brain for in vivo imaging, electrophysiological recordings, and optogenetic manipulations.