Director, General/Experimental Graduate Program
My research interests are in the neurobiology of learning and memory. I am interested in both the neural and the psychological mechanisms underlying learned behaviors. More specifically, my lab has used eyeblink classical conditioning as a model system for examining learning and the functions of the cerebellum in both the intact brain and in rat models of human clinical conditions. The basic eyeblink conditioning procedure is well-understood at both the behavioral and the neural levels and provides an excellent laboratory model of associative learning. Eyeblink conditioning lends itself to the experimental study of learning and brain-behavior relationships because the learned response, an eye blink to a previously neutral stimulus, is easily measureable and quantifiable.
More recently, my lab has also been using a set-shifting maze task to examine striatum- and prefrontal-dependent learning and memory. This task is similar to the Wisconsin Card Sorting task used in humans. The initial learning phase of the task relies on the dorsolateral striatum in rodents while the set-shifting phase of the task engages medial prefrontal cortex.
My current research interests include: