We are interested in brain mechanisms that control goal-directed behaviour. Our focus is on executive function, a term used to describe the organization of several cognitive capacities such as attention, memory, and inhibitory control, into coherent actions that are crucial for survival in both animals and humans. Impairments in executive function plague patients with neurodegenerative disorders (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease) and chronic mental illnesses (e.g. schizophrenia), often even after their acute symptoms have subsided. The associated complex pattern of behavioural deficits in planning, organising and problem solving can severely compromise quality of life for many years. Since current pharmacotherapies fail to improve these symptoms, understanding the underlying circuits, and ultimately developing molecular and genetic strategies to restore normal function, is an important goal for behavioural neuroscience.
In the laboratory, our approach is to dissect executive function into its behavioural components in a rodent model, and to examine how large-scale neural circuits contribute to each component. Our main points of focus are the hippocampus (HC) and prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is well known to play an important role in to executive function with different subregions contributing to working memory, response inhibition, and the direction of attention. The HC, while most closely associated with memory function, has recently been hypothesized to contribute to aspects of executive function, possibly through its dense innervation of the PFC. Our work uses a combination of behavioural, neuroanatomical, psychopharmacological and molecular genetic techniques to understand the role of the hippocampal-prefrontal pathway in executive function.
Our lab is based in the 8th floor of the Stewart Biology Building located in the downtown campus of McGill University. We recently renovated our lab space and have a full complement of behavioural and molecular equipment. Our lab is affiliated with the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology (CSBN)