New neurons are continuously generated in the adult brain. Some fundamental questions on adult neurogenesis remain largely unknown. Therefore, a better understanding of the developmental processes for new neurons is of great importance. These studies will also establish a window through which we can see the ‘developmental processes’ in the adult neural circuits. Furthermore, the results may pave the way for cell-replacement therapy although there is still a long way to go. The goal of our laboratories is to examine the generation, integration and function of new neurons. We use molecular, cellular, in vitro / in vivo imaging, physiological and behavioral approaches to study where, when and how these new neurons integrate into the existing adult circuitry. Other than the mechanisms of integration, understanding the physiological function of these integrating/integrated neurons in the brain is another goal of the lab.
Neural circuit mechanisms underlying Reinforcement learning and decision-making
How do we learn new behavioral actions from experiences? How do we make decisions on what actions to take at a given circumstance based on experiences? Accumulating evidence has suggested that reinforcement learning may induce specific changes in neuronal excitability, activity and/or connectivity in specific neuronal ensembles, which could serve as a potential locus for memory engram. Furthermore, complex neural circuits may be involved in executing behavioral decisions based on learned experiences. In our laboratories, we use rodent models to explore the neural circuits, neuronal ensembles, and synaptic activity/plasticity that underlying memory formation and retrieval mechanisms. Rodent behavior training, in vivo tetrode recording, in vivo imaging, slice recording, optogenetics and immunohistochemistry are used in these studies.