Research in the Vento Lab focuses on the brain pathways that underlie learning from punishment and subsequent inhibition of behaviors that lead to suboptimal outcomes. Deficits in either of these processes can have severe and often dangerous consequences, and present as hallmark features of several mental disorders including substance abuse, mania, and anxiety disorders.
Behavioral models of neuropsychiatric disease
We incorporate a variety of well-established behavioral paradigms in rodents including operant conditioning of lever pressing for natural or drug rewards, as well as novel cognitive tasks that are designed to model features of human mental illness.
Optical control of neural activity
Optogenetic approaches are routinely incorporated to target specific neuronal subpopulations, or the connections between distributed brain regions, with timing-specific control of cellular activity using light. These experiments are often deployed as a complement to, or in combination with, chemogenetic studies using designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs).
In vivo calcium imaging
Using genetically-encoded fluorescent calcium sensors, such as GCamp, we are able to dynamically visualize activity in individual neurons across spatial and temporal domains using miniaturized microendoscopes in freely-behaving rodents.