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