Welcome to our lab!
Our lab is interested in the neuroanatomical basis of learning and memory, and specifically how synaptic circuits are reorganized when emotional memories are formed. To survive, animals must learn to recognize and respond to dangerous situations. It is also essential to inhibit fearful responses when no danger is present, and the failure to suppress inappropriate fear and anxiety lies at the core of many common psychiatric disorders. We study synaptic connectivity in the lateral amygdala, a brain area that regulates fear and anxiety, with the goal of understanding the synaptic changes that occur when animals learn to differentiate between safety and danger. To visualize synaptic connectivity, we use three-dimensional electron microscopy reconstructions combined with classical and viral-vector based neuroanatomical tract tracing and immunohistochemistry. Combined with behavioral pharmacology, these tools allow us to conduct detailed, quantitative analyses of the structural features of different types of synapses, and to assess shifts in synapse populations associated with learning and memory. We are especially interested in the role of local protein synthesis at synapses in learning, and in sexual dimorphism in synaptic circuits. Development of new methods for visualizing molecules in electron microscopy volumes is also an active area of research in the lab.