Mentor: Dr. Laura Corbit
We make numerous decisions each day in order to fulfill basic needs and desires. While some require careful consideration and deliberation, others are made routinely with little or no conscious thought. Both types of behavior rely heavily on previous learning but are controlled by distinct corticostriatal circuits. x000D
Research in the last 10 years has substantially advanced our understanding of how goal-directed and habitual behaviours are acquired and the neural circuits that support them. What we still know remarkably little about is how the brain dynamically coordinates the activity of these systems. In particular, once a behavior becomes routine, how does the brain suppress a behaviour when environmental contingencies change? This question is important not only from a basic science perspective, but also for understanding failures of behavioural control that mark numerous neuropsychiatric diseases.x000D
This project examines the effects of experiences including diet, drug exposure and stress on the brain and how this contributes to premature and pervasive habitual control.
My training philosophy is based on my belief that each student has different interests and strengths but that everyone has something valuable to contribute to the lab. I believe students thrive when they feel their work is valued and when they have a say in which projects and specific tasks they are involved in. I feel it is my job to inspire and engage students to get them excited about research, and then to train and support them to become selfdirected learners. My lab uses a wide range of research methods including behavioural assessment, pharmacology, optogenetics, electrophysiology, histology and advanced analysis methods and so my trainees have access to a diverse set of research tools. My trainees come from diverse backgrounds and are assigned to projects based on their interests and skills. In lab meetings trainees present research ideas and data and we discuss experimental design, data analysis and interpretation