About Our Research
The Neuromodulation and Motivation Section focuses on understanding how receptor-driven molecular signals influence the learning of food-predicting cues and the motivation to seek food.
Associations between cues and palatable food result in the ability of these cues to motivate food seeking behavior. The amygdala is a major neural circuit node where information of learned and innate environmental stimuli merges with bodily signals of physiological state. Neural activity in this brain region is important for the ability of cues to motivate the seeking and consumption of palatable food. Neurons in the amygdala express G-Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) which activate molecular signaling pathways that can control neural activity. Our current research uses two-photon imaging approaches in awake mice to study how signaling by GPCRs influences the learning of food cues and the control of motivation. We take advantage of novel genetically-encoded fluorescence biosensors, fluorescence lifetime imaging, and optogenetic control of molecular signaling cascades. With these optical approaches we can shed light on ongoing molecular signals that may reveal neural circuit states supporting motivated food seeking.