Our research seeks to understanding brain systems in terms of what and how they compute. We use Pavlovian eyelid conditioning to study 1) computation and learning in the cerebellum and 2) the mechanisms of persistent activity in prefrontal cortex that relate to working memory.
Cerebellar Projects: We want to understand the cerebellum well enough to reproduce its function with a biologically detailed and constrained computer simulation. We use the relatively direct ways in which delay eyelid conditioning engages the cerebellum to study the input-output rules of the cerebellum and to understand the mechanisms that mediate cerebellar computation and learning. These studies combine eyelid conditioning experiments with the use of large-scale computer simulations. We hope this work will reveal principles of computation and learning in the brain and facilitate development of prevention strategies, treatements or cures for cerebellar pathologies such as cerebellar ataxia and cerebellar-olivary degeneration.
Prefrontal Cortex Projects: We are using trace eyelid conditioning to study learning-related persistent activity in prefrontal cortex and its role in working memory. In collaboration with Dan Johnston and his lab we are developing techiniques to facilitate cellular analysis of the mechanisms of persistent activity, which can then be related back to working memory-dependent behaviors. This work could contribute to prevention/treatment strategies for disorders that affect working memory such as Alzheimer’s disease, attention disorders such as ADHD, autism, and schizophrenia, as well as a many learning disorders.