- Increase understanding of how the brain overcomes maladaptive states of arousal and anxiety.
- Do basic science that may lead to improve health care options for patients suffering the burden of psychiatric disease.
- Train effective scientific thinkers who value communication and collaboration.
- To increase diversity within the neuroscience workforce.
Our Scientific Goals:
Survival often depends on the decisions we make to avoid dangerous stimuli. When mammalian species are presented with a stimulus that represents danger, they can either face the danger or avoid it. Avoidance behaviors can be executed in a wide variety of scenarios and for a wide variety of reasons. When anxiety states are elevated – the likelihood of avoidance is higher. In humans, excessive avoidance is one of the hallmarks of psychiatric disorders such as Anxiety and Autism. However, another important feature in these disorders is the abnormal increase in rapid physiological arousal responses termed hyperarousal. Our mission is to elucidate the neural mechanisms that mediate the hyperarousal states that emerge in many psychiatric disorders. In addition, we are interested in how these circuits modulate motivated behaviors and cognition. The main purpose of our research group is to elucidate the precise neural circuits of hyperarousal with the goal that our findings will lead to novel discoveries for psychiatric intervention to treat those suffering the burden of mental illness. To accomplish this, we employ a combination of in vivo calcium imaging and optogenetics together with histological approaches that allow us to dissect the neural circuitry of arousal and anxiety with single-cell resolution and genetic specificity.