Neural correlates of compulsive and perseverative behaviors
Compulsive behaviors are a core feature of OCD and many related disorders, but the neural dysfunction underlying the initiation and persistence of these repetitive actions is unknown. To further understand how compulsive behaviors are generated, sustained, and terminated, we study the neural substrates underlying a variety of naturalistic and instrumental perseverative and compulsive behaviors in mouse models, using calcium imaging and electrophysiology in awake and behaving mice. Current projects are focusing on networks connecting the prefrontal cortex, striatum, and thalamus that have been shown to be dysfunctional in people with OCD.
Developing new tasks to assess OCD-relevant behaviors in animal models
Human OCD post-mortem
Though functional imaging studies have identified corticostriatal circuit dysfunction in OCD patients, the molecular underpinnings of this dysfunction are unknown. While genome-wide association studies and post-mortem molecular studies have been conducted in many psychiatric disorders, this foundation for OCD is lacking. In our lab, we have access to valuable human brain tissue from OCD patients and are using molecular biology, RNAseq, and proteomics analysis to investigate consistent, region-specific molecular abnormalities in OCD patients. The long-term goal of these projects is to identify molecular targets for manipulation in animal models, and ultimately inform treatments for patients.