Behavioral Neuroscience/Animal Learning Behavioral Neuroscience
The Behavioral Neuroscience faculty, postdoc, and graduate students currently in the program.
Dr. Mary Cain's research interests also include the neurobiological basis of drug abuse using a rodent model. One area of research investigates the neural structures that contribute to elevated drug use caused by genetic or environmental factors. A second research area explores the effects of Pavlovian fear conditioning on drug taking behavior in rats. Methods used in the laboratory include locomotor activity, self-administration, and brain microinfusions. Both research areas are attempting to determine the neuronal structures that contribute to drug taking behavior in order to develop methods to decrease drug use using both behavioral and neurological techniques.
Dr. Cain is conducting research as a Project Leader in the Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity (CNAP).
Dr. Mary Cain (785)532-6884 has additional information concerning this research.
Dr. Maria Diehl's research program focuses on the understanding of how social stimuli can alter the neural circuits of fear and avoidance to reduce anxiety-like behaviors and subsequently promote resilient behaviors in rats. She uses a variety of techniques including single unit recordings and optogenetic manipulations in behaving rats. Research in the Diehl laboratory seeks to understand why some individuals can overcome trauma and develop behavioral resilience, while other individuals go on to develop a neuropsychiatric disease, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. We are also interested in understanding how social stimuli can alter fear-related behaviors and the neural circuits that guide social interactions under aversive conditions.
Dr. Maria Diehl has additional information concerning this research.
Dr. Kimberly Kirkpatrick’s comparative cognition lab conducts research using pigeons, rats, and people. The rat timing laboratory is currently conducting investigations on the role of timing processes in temporal discounting choice procedures. The current investigations are striving to uncover the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms involved in choosing between a smaller more immediate outcome versus a delayed and more valuable outcome. The research is particularly relevant to understanding impulsive choices that are associated with drug addiction, ADHD, and impulsive personality disorder. As research in this area unfolds over time, multiple levels of analysis will be used including behavioral, computational, neurobiological, and translational approaches. The pigeon visual cognition laboratory is dedicated to the study of visual perception and visual cognition in pigeons, with some emphasis on comparative research with human subjects. Recent projects have been examining motion perception in both pigeons and people, and in examining the role of basic Gestalt principles such as good continuation in contributing to visual perception in the pigeon.
Dr. Kirkpatrick is the Director of the Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity (CNAP).
Dr. Kimberly Kirkpatrick has additional information concerning this research.
Dr. Charles Pickens is interested in how alcohol exposure in adolescence or adulthood affects the brain systems involved in learning about rewards and fear-inducing stimuli. He is particularly interested in the brain systems involved in the ability to learn about rewards and flexibly adjust our actions when our goals, or the correct strategies to achieve our goals, change. The lab studies these brain systems with the devaluation and reversal learning tasks in rats. He is also interested in the brain systems involved in fear and anxiety, and how this fear and anxiety can increase over time after traumatic events. The lab studies this in rats with the fear incubation task that he developed for this purpose. The lab uses brain lesions/temporary inactivations, functional neuroanatomy (measures of neuronal activity and retrograde tracing), and optogenetic, behavioral and pharmacological approaches to investigate these questions.
Dr. Pickens is conducting research as a Project Leader in the Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity (CNAP).
Dr. Charles Pickens has additional information concerning this research.
Dr. Bethany Plakke's lab is interested in understanding how cognitive flexibility is impacted in various neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and ADHD. We use the valproic acid (VPA) model with rodents to induce autism-like symptoms in the animals. We are interested in better understanding behavioral, sensory, and cognitive changes, as well as possible neurobiological changes that occur within the brain. For instance, can decreases in cerebellar volume of VPA animals predict behavioral deficits in a set-shifting task? Our lab uses a variety of behavioral and histological techniques to examine circuit differences between treated and untreated rats.
Dr. Bethany Plakke has additional information concerning this research.