My lab studies the neural circuits that control learned threat responses and how they can be
disrupted by early life stress. We focus on the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which plays a
key role in memory and decision-making, including adaptively responding to threats. The mPFC
undergoes a uniquely prolonged development compared to other brain regions. While critical to
establish mPFC’s mature cognitive functions, this extended development opens a long window
during which insults can perturb healthy circuit assembly. As a result, mPFC dysfunction is
linked to numerous psychiatric diseases including fear and anxiety disorders and depression.
But how mPFC threat circuits typically mature, and how they can be perturbed, remains poorly
understood. We address these questions using in vivo optogenetics, Ca2+ imaging, and viral
circuit tracing. With these approaches, we are uncovering how the neural mechanisms of
behavior change across development. We also develop open-source tools that use machine
learning approaches to perform detailed analyses of connectivity and behavior.
Key Research Areas:
Neurodevelopment, Learning and Memory, Neural Circuits, Neural plasticity, Anxiety Disorders, Early Life Stress