Dr. Melissa Sharpe is interested in the neural circuits that drive reinforcement learning, and how psychological disorders arise from changes in these mechanisms. To this end, her lab utilizes sophisticated decision-making tasks to isolate cognitive mechanisms controlling behavior. On this backdrop, her lab employs optogenetics, chemogenetics, and calcium imaging of genetically-encoded calcium sensors in transgenic rodents to manipulate and record neural activity. They are particularly interested in the way the lateral hypothalamus encodes specific types of learned associations and the wider circuitry that support this function.
Key Research Areas:
Dopamine, Lateral Hypothalamus, Reinforcement Learning, Behavioral Neuroscience, Optogenetics