Vento Lab on Aversive Learning
Our lab studies the neural pathways that underlie cost-benefit decision-making and the compulsive nature of addiction. Using a systems-level approach to understand communication between discrete brain regions, we incorporate a range of behavioral, anatomical, and genetic approaches to ask how the brain mediates choice and suppresses maladaptive behavior.
Research in the Vento Lab focuses on brain pathways mediating aversive learning and cost-benefit decision-making. How do we learn from negative experiences in day-to-day life, and how do we come to avoid suboptimal outcomes in the future? What are the neural circuits that control these processes and how are they perturbed in individuals battling substance abuse, depression, or anxiety disorders? To address these questions, we deploy a wide range of behavioral, neuroanatomical, and neurophysiological techniques in rodents to visualize and manipulate distributed neural circuits underlying learning and motivated behaviors. Much of this work incorporates optogenetic, chemogenetic, and optical imaging tools in combination with a variety of rodent behavioral paradigms. The overarching goal of these studies is to better understand how the brain encodes negative experiences and how these processes might be targeted to combat the often-devastating consequences of addiction and other motivational disorders.