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Research interests

Insights gained into CNS mechanisms underlying emotional behaviours are important in the development of strategies to improve emotional disorders and animal welfare. Little is known about the way central ‘emotional’ circuits engage with the motor system to generate the highly characteristic responses essential for survival (i.e. fight, flight or freezing).

My project explores and characterizes relationships between the cerebellum and key components of survival networks. I’ve been identifying neural pathways between cerebellum and periaqueductal grey (PAG) with neuronal tracers (AAV(1)-CAG-tdTomato and AAV(r)-CAG-GFP), and with electrophysiological mapping in an anaesthetised animal to identify direct or multisynaptic functional connections.

I’ve recently started using chemogenetic approaches in awake freely moving rodents during fear behavioural paradigms (e.g. fear conditioning, predatory odour) to investigate the behavioural function of the identified pathways.

I’ve also been analysing LFP activity from these areas (cerebellum and PAG) to investigate their dynamics and how these dynamics change with different aspects of defensive behaviours. In the future months I will be adding more brain regions to the analysis, to have a more complete picture of the dynamical changes of the fear network.

I will then use the LFP signals to develop and test Dynamic Causal Models (DCM) of connectivity.

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