Our research focuses on the neurobiological substrates of learning and memory. We are particularly interested in how the brain processes and stores specific content in long-term memory. Animals (like humans) are capable of learning detailed information about sensory cues that are important because of their association with significant events. Associative learning makes memory rich with sensory information. What are the neural substrates of information-rich memory? What is the basis of individual differences in remembering an event with high stimulus-specific versus stimulus generalization? The lab investigates these questions with experiments that aim to understand the transformation of transient sensory experience into long-lasting memory of experience in an auditory model of associative learning. We use electrophysiological techniques to study learning-induced plasticity in the auditory cortex, as well as pharmacological techniques to identify circuit and molecular mechanisms that regulate the sound-specificity of auditory system plasticity that remodels cortical and subcortical representations of sound. Techniques used combine multiple levels of analysis: behavioral, electrophysiological, molecular, genetic; to describe brain-behavior relationships that can identify the key neural systems, circuits and epigenetic control molecules that enable specific memory to form over a lifetime of experiences.
This research is relevant for basic understanding of learning and memory processes, the auditory system as a basis for listening and communication, and for understanding the neurobiological basis for the learned significance of cues that direct adaptive (as in recall for memory) or maladaptive (as in addiction or perseverative) behaviors.
Keywords: auditory cortex, tonotopic map, sensory physiology, cortex, auditory brainstem response, behavioral psychology, epigenetics, histone acetylation, representational plasticity, learning, memory