Research in the Motor and Habit Learning Lab aims to understand how we learn new motor skills and develop the many motor habits we use every day. Motor learning is supported by the learning and memory circuitry of the basal ganglia and related structures — including the neocortex, thalamus and many neuromodulatory systems. We use rodent models of motor learning to study the neuronal changes that lead to improved performance and habitual behaviors.
The lab is interested in the mechanisms that support learning in the healthy brain, as well as the dysfunctions that may occur following neural injury or in various disease states. Understanding the computations performed by the basal ganglia and related structures is particularly relevant, as disruption of these circuits results in prevalent movement disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, dystonia) and is implicated in many non-motor disorders as well (e.g., schizophrenia, autism, ADHD).
Our work uses in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology combined with optogenetics, pharmacology and rodent behavior to characterize learning-related changes in neural signaling at multiple levels of investigation — from single synapses to behaving animal. We are particularly interested in the changes that occur at cortical, thalamic, and striatal synapses during motor learning, the modulation of these synapses by acetylcholine and norepinephrine, and the alterations in neural signaling that occur in these pathways as a result of nerve injuries or neurological disorders.
If you are interested in joining our research team, please contact us!