Mental processes mediated by LS circuitry
Extensive work in humans and model organisms has identified multiple brain regions whose activity regulates susceptibility to stress. 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 identify the mental processes mediated by LS circuitry, as well as how they are modulated by stress, we are using state-of-the-art tools for in vivo imaging (fiber photometry, miniature microscopes) and optogenetics in freely behaving mice to record and manipulate neural activity in genetically-defined neuronal subpopulations before, during, and after stressor exposure.