Research

 

We study how biological systems adapt and learn to improve behavior. We use a range of techniques (e.g., in vivo whole-cell recording, 2-photon microscopy, whole-brain circuit mapping, long-term behavioral monitoring, gene profiling) to ask three main questions, mostly in the auditory cortex of rodents.

 

1. How does oxytocin affect maternal physiology?

We study reproduction and child care from conception to post-weaning interactions. We examine circuits and molecular cues (e.g., hypothalamic hormones such as oxytocin) throughout the brain and body important for neuroplasticity and other changes essential for maternal care of infants, including how other animals might learn or develop alloparenting skills.

 

2. How are cortical excitatory-inhibitory inputs coordinated or ‘balanced’?

Synaptic inhibition must be calibrated with excitation and adjusted after periods of synaptic plasticity, to allow neural circuits to develop, adapt, learn, and regulate overall excitability. We examine how neuromodulators (e.g., acetylcholine, noradrenaline, dopamine, oxytocin) affect excitatory and inhibitory cells and synapses to enable plasticity and improve perception.

 

3. How do cochlear implants work?

Cochlear implants are remarkable neuroprosthetic devices that provide hearing in cases of profound deafness. We are examining the neural mechanisms of adaptation that enable cochlear implant signals to be learned and understood, and aim to accelerate this process (e.g., by closed-loop feedback and/or activation of central modulatory and plasticity mechanisms).