How do we learn, decide what is important, and choose an appropriate behavioral strategy? Increasing our understanding of how neuronal circuits solve these puzzles is critical for understanding the principles of voluntary behavior. My research is concerned with answering how uncertanty about future outcomes, a subjective measurement of the probabilities of rewards or punishments, affects how we learn, what we prefer, and how we feel.
By studying the neuronal circuits involved in uncertainty-processing using a variety of techniques and approaches, including behavioral assays, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, brain imaging, optogenetics, and anatomical tracing we will explore important questions including, how do outcome uncertainty-related internal states, such as hopefulness or anxiety, emerge? And, what is their role in guiding behavior? How does outcome uncertainty modulate learning and memory? Which neuronal pathways underlie the internal measurements of outcome uncertainty? Which neuronal pathways mediate uncertainty-related modulations of emotional states and decision-making? Does outcome uncertainty control the motor system and if so, how?