Our studies aim at identifying neural circuit mechanisms of emotion regulation. The ability to interpret and regulate feelings and emotions based on previous experiences is essential to adapt motivated behavior to the needs of the individual in a complex environment.
To decipher how emotional salient internal states, motivation and memory about previous experiences guide flexible behavior, our lab explores the development and plasticity of a neuronal network comprising prefrontal and limbic brain circuits, with a particular focus on the insular cortex. The insular cortex is implicated in complex functions, ranging from emotional control and social behavior, to empathy and interoceptive awareness. However, to date, very little is known about the development, organization and plasticity of the insular cortex, or how it is embedded in a wider limbic-prefrontal circuit.
Using mice as a model organism, we employ a combinatorial approach of behavioral essays, functional in vivo one- and two- photon imaging, viral tracing of neuronal circuits and optogenetic techniques in awake, behaving animals. We hope that our results will advance the current knowledge of the neuronal architecture underlying emotion processing and regulation.