I received Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and psychology from West Virginia University in 2007. I then completed a Ph.D in biopsychology at the University of Michigan, where I worked in the lab of Terry Robinson. As a graduate student, I explored how trait variation in responsivity to reward-paired stimuli relates to drug craving and relapse, using animal models (reviewed here).
In 2013, I joined Patricia Janak's lab as a postdoctoral fellow, where I shifted to focus on investigating neural circuit-level control of reward seeking. In recent projects, I have employed optogenetics, fiber photometry, and anatomical methods (reviewed here) to explore functional heterogeneity among midbrain dopamine neuron subpopulations in Pavlovian cue conditioned motivational processes.
In other projects I am utilizing in vivo calcium imaging methods to investigate activity dynamics of midbrain circuits during cocaine-seeking behavior. My research has been funded by a Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a NARSAD Young Investigator Award. Please see the Research page for details.
In June of 2018, I opened my own research laboratory at the University of Minnesota department of neuroscience.
- How are unconditioned and conditioned motivational states encoded and controlled?
- How do environmental cues acquire motivational control of reward seeking?
- What neural changes underlie shifts from adaptive to maladaptive motivational states that contribute to addiction and related diseases?
- How are individual differences in reward-related behaviors reflected in neural circuit activity?
To address these and other questions, I integrate sophisticated behavioral methods with state-of-the-art neural circuit dissection tools