Our sensory systems are not passive recipients of incoming streams of data, they process information in a highly context-dependent fashion. We know, for example, that sensory responses are influenced by factors such as arousal level and attentive state, behavioral context, and reward contingencies. Faced with dynamic external contexts and internal drives, the brain must flexibly filter, recruit, integrate and modify the activity of local cortical circuits in order to effectively process inputs and produce adaptive behaviors. Neuromodulation is one means by which these challenges can be met.
The goal of our research program is to better understand modulatory signaling in the cortex, both in terms of the mechanisms by which modulators alter cortical processing, and of the behavioral drivers of modulator release. We also seek to understand how various modulatory systems interact with each other, in the context of behavior. To this end, we conduct basic research using a number of experimental techniques including comparative neuroanatomy, electrophysiology, electrochemistry, pharmacology and behavior.