Working Groups 2008-2009

Olfactory circuits for reproduction and reward James Cherry. This collaboration seeks to characterize neural pathways in the main olfactory system that respond to innately attractive odors, such as food odors and those involved in mate choice and sexual attraction. Using mice, we will follow up on preliminary data showing that a direct projection exists from the main olfactory bulb (MOB) to the medial amygdala (Me) that is selectively activated by volatile odors produced by the opposite sex. Based on recent studies showing that functional domains may exist in the olfactory system for mediating innate responses to certain odors, we propose to examine whether innately rewarding odors are selectively processed by circuits that directly target the amygdala. Members: James Cherry (Psychology), Michael Baum (Biology) and Matthew Wachowiak (Biology).

Statistical analysis of neural and behavioral data during memory related experiments Uri Eden. The focus of this working group is to develop and apply statistical methods to understand brain activity during memory tasks. These methods will allow us to characterize common features of neural coding associated with electrophysiological and imaging data, understand and appropriately model sources of variability in this data, and make inferences about how brain areas represent memory or context dependent information. Members: Uri Eden (Mathematics), Howard Eichenbaum (Psychology), Michael Hasselmo (Psychology), Chantal Stern (Psychology), David Somers (Psychology).

Transcriptional control of neuronal cell cycle: relevance to aging, Alzheimers disease, and epilepsy Ulla Hansen. The focus of this newly formed collaboration is to investigate how the regulation of gene expression underlying neuronal cell cycle control is altered in disease and aging. The major goal is translational research, merging basic knowledge regarding transcription factors that mediate and maintain cell cycle entry and exit with anatomical, biochemical, and physiological alterations in disease and aging. The initial focus will be on brain disorders in which cell cycle control is known to be de-regulated: Alzheimer’s disease, where neurodegeneration is associated with an attempt of neurons to re-enter the cell cycle and epilepsy, where hyperexcitability has been linked to the birth of new dentate granule cells. Molecular and computational, and ultimately behavioral, approaches will be applied to investigations in both neuronal cell cultures and animal models. Members: Carmela R. Abraham, (Biochemistry), Ulla Hansen, (Biology) and Shelley Russek, (Pharmacology).

Cognitive Enhancers and Extinction of Drug Addiction Kathleen Kantak. The working group on addictions has the opportunity to conduct translational research studies in mice, rats, monkeys, humans. Studies are proposed to assess the effects of cognitive-enhancing drugs for promoting therapeutic learning with respect to extinction of cue conditioned responses associated with drugs of abuse. Such studies are relevant for drug relapse prevention and are designed to understand neurobiological and behavioral mechanisms, which could lead to the development of novel medications and treatment approaches. The drugs of abuse likely to be investigated include cocaine, opiates and alcohol. Members: Kathleen Kantak (Psychology), Michael Otto (Psychology), Stefan Hofmann (Psychology), Christopher Pierce (Psychiatry and Pharmacology), Conan Kornetsky (Psychiatry and Pharmacology), Gary Kaplan (Psychiatry and Pharmacology), Clifford Knapp (Psychiatry), Dominic Ciraulo (Psychiatry), Jeffrey Samet (General Internal Medicine).

Active sensing Matthew Wachowiak and Barbara Shinn-Cunningham. We are not simply passive observers, but active explorers of the world around us. Organisms direct top-down attention to select what information to bring into the perceptual foreground; this in turn alters what sensory inputs is perceived. Moreover, organisms often actively direct their sensory organs, guiding their eyes, nose, whiskers, etc., in ways that enhance information that is relevant to their immediate behavioral goal. The focus of this working group is to understand how active sensing affects perception using behavioral experiments, electrophysiological measures, imaging, and computational modeling. Members: Barbara Shinn-Cunningham (Cognitive and Neural Systems), David Somers (Psychology), Michele Rucci (Cognitive and Neural Systems/Psychology), Matthew Wachowiak (Biology), Kamal Sen (Biomedical Engineering), and Nancy Kopell (Mathematics).

Vulnerabilty of white matter in aging and other brain insults Roberta White. This working group is interested in the effects of both aging and heavy metal neurotoxicity on white matter, and in expanding to investigate the basic physiology and molecular signaling pathways of myelin. Members: Douglas Rosene (Anatomy), Mark Moss (Anatomy), Peter Bergethon (Anatomy), Julie Sandell (Anatomy), Michael McClean (Public Health) and Roberta White (Public Health).