My lab studies negative emotional states (fear, anxiety, depression) using rat and mouse behavioral models. A significant emphasis is on the biology of fearful memory, which we dissect using Pavlovian conditioning paradigms. We also focus on drug dependence, since negative affective states are a prominent feature of drug withdrawal and likely play a critical role in the persistence of drug addiction. Our projects use a number of behavioral measures of emotion, including “potentiated startle“, the increase in magnitude of the acoustic startle reflex seen when a person or animal is in state of fear.
Through collaborations in the Medical School, we also study the cognitive and affective consequences of abnormal brain development. Much of this research has centered on the effects of prenatal brain iron deficiency. Currently, we are also seeking to develop new mouse genetic models of autism and schizophrenia.