Courses Taught: PSYC/NRSC 332: Neuroscience of Learning and Memory (Spring, 2018)
Accepting graduate students for the 2018-2019 academic year
- Neural pathways of learning and memory
- Active avoidance behavior and aversively motivated action
- Disorders of emotional memory (PTSD)
The brain contains multiple memory systems. While these systems often work together, they can also compete to influence behavior. A frightening emotional memory can render you immobile, even if you know from experience that action is needed to keep you safe. How does your brain resolve this conflict? What are the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms by which an adaptive balance is struck? What factors allow one form of memory to win out over another? These questions are the focus of study in the Moscarello Lab.
Active avoidance behavior is the primary model paradigm we use to explore conflict between different types of memory. This task requires the subject to resolve contrasting forms of learning in order to produce adaptive behavior. To understand this phenomenon, we conduct behavioral experiments informed by learning theory and combine this approach with cutting edge neuroscientific techniques (e.g. DREADDs, optogenetics, etc). Our goal is to illuminate the basic structure and function of memory systems in the mammalian brain, as well as to understand the implications of our data for clinical issues such as trauma, anxiety and resilience.
- NARSAD Young Investigator Award, Brain & Behavior Foundation, $70,000 (2018-2019). Title: The Neural Mechanisms of Resilience
Moscarello JM, Hartley CA (in press) Agency and the calibration of motivated behavior. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
LeDoux JE, Moscarello JM, Sears R, Campese V (2017) The birth, death, and resurrection of avoidance: a reconceptualization of a troubled paradigm. Molecular Psychiatry, 22(1): 24-36.
Ramirez F, Moscarello JM, LeDoux JE, Sears R (2015) Active avoidance requires a serial basal amygdala to nucleus accumbens shell circuit. Journal of Neuroscience, 35(8): 3470-77.
Moscarello JM, LeDoux JE (2013) Active avoidance learning requires prefrontal suppression of amygdala-mediated defensive reactions. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(9): 3815-23.