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Neural Circuit Mechanisms of Emotion and Motivation


Neural Circuit Mechanisms of Emotion and Motivation

Who's speaking at this Webinar?

Dr. Kay Tye
Assistant Professor, Dept. Of Brain & Cognitive Sciences Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Behaviors are motivated by two emotional valences: Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The ability to select appropriate behavioral responses to environmental stimuli, such as avoiding a predator or approaching a food source, is critical for survival. Although most animals are capable of learning to assign either positive or negative associations to environmental cues, we are only beginning to understand the underlying neural circuits and the plasticity that mediates the formation, revision or extinction of an associative memory.

How do we know if something is good or bad?

How are emotional or motivational associations assigned to environmental cues?

Where do the circuits processing associative information diverge to differentially encode positive and negative valence?

When there are perturbations in the neural circuits mediating reward processing, fear, motivation, memory or inhibitory control, we may observe a number of disease states such as substance abuse, attention-deficit disorder, anxiety and depression. These are among the most prevalent neuropsychiatric disorders, and show a high rate of co-morbidity with each other, as patients diagnosed with anxiety or mood disorders are approximately twice as likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. Understanding the neural bases of these disease states is the key to developing more effective therapies with fewer side-effects, and also at the core of understanding motivated behaviours critical for survival.

By attending this webinar you will learn: 

  • The experimental details of our work examining the synpatic plasticity and neural dynamics
  • The technological approaches we apply to answer these questions including optogenetic approaches, in vivo electrophysiology with optogenetic-mediated photoidentification or "phototagging"
  • The use of viral vectors for targeting genetically-encodable proteins


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