Social behavior is crucial to the survival of all mammalian species, and is impaired in a wide variety of psychiatric disorders. Although many brain systems are involved in the regulation of social behaviors, prefrontal circuits are thought to play a dominant role in this process by guiding adaptive, context-dependent responses to social stimuli. We are interested in the mechanisms through which prefrontal circuits control social functions. Using genetic mouse models of autism, we are beginning to uncover the deficits in cortical processing that might underlie the social abnormalities associated with autism spectrum disorders.
The prefrontal cortex is extremely heterogeneous in its neuronal subtypes, their interactions with other brain regions and their connectivity within the local circuit. We are interested in the contribution of prefrontal neuron populations to the performance of goal-directed behaviors. We use electrophysiological recordings in behaving mice, optogenetic manipulations, calcium imaging and advanced photometry to dissect the dynamic involvement of these neurons in behavior.
Synaptic connections are the infrastructure on which neuronal computation takes place, and impaired synaptic connectivity can result in serious mental and neurological impairments. We are interested in understanding the organization of functional synaptic connectivity in the prefrontal cortex, how it changes with experience, and what are the mechanisms and implications of its disruption in neurodevelopmental disorders.