Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Scholar
Ph.D. Harvard University
Psychology Office: 4014 East Hall
Psychology Phone: 734-615-2712
Alternate Phone: 734-647-9754
Research and Teaching Interests
My primary interests concern the role of basal ganglia circuits in the learning, selection and performance of actions, and how such neural mechanisms are altered in psychiatric and neurological disorders such as drug addiction and Parkinson's Disease. My current studies use chronic electrophysiological recording in awake, freely-moving rats and transgenic mice. I examine how populations of neurons encode information and interact with one another, and how these neural representations are changed by learning experiences and by dopaminergic manipulations. Some of the interrelated, long-term questions I aim to address are:
- How do neural circuits involving the basal ganglia mediate action selection and implicit learning? By what mechanisms do neuromodulators such as dopamine affect these circuits to produce both acute and long-term changes in behavior?
- How do alterations in the dynamic properties of basal ganglia circuits produce the key symptoms of human behavioral disorders such as Parkinson's Disease?
- What differences in neural representations and dynamics distinguish deliberate from automatic actions? How does the prefrontal cortex suppress inappropriate habits to provide behavioral flexibility?
- To what extent can we think of certain compulsive behaviors as disorders of learning/memory, arising from altered synaptic plasticity?
- How do learning mechanisms in the basal ganglia differ from those in hippocampus? How do multiple "memory systems" interact during different types of associative learning?