Quick Project Snapshot
Memory, cognitive flexibility, and ageing
People born between 1946 and 1964 (‘‘baby boomers’’) are entering retirement in large numbers. This has major implications both for the individuals and for society. One serious consequence is natural changes in the brain that accompany ageing, especially in a region called the hippocampus. This structure is known to play an important role in memory formation and storage, and is vulnerable to damage throughout life. It is well-known that regular exercise can support the formation of new brain cells in the hippocampus, and this has implications for learning and cognition. In fact, the hippocampus is critical for cognitive flexibility involved in the inhibition (extinction) of conditioned fear, as well as the reinstatement of fear following extinction learning. Therefore, this project aims to investigate whether chronic exercise in middle-aged mice can improve extinction and/or reinstatement of conditioned fear compared to standard housing. Results so far show that while aged mice display decreased cognitive flexibility compared to younger mice, exercise can be beneficial for reducing natural cognitive decline even when a change in lifestyle occurs later in life.
Developmental Psychobiology Laboratory
We aim to understand the neurobiological mechanisms underlying emotional memory across development. Memory and emotion both govern so much of how we feel, think, and act – and ultimately can decide the maladaptive motivations that drive mental disorders. Brain changes that are normally involved in our development from infancy through adolescence and into maturation contribute enormously to the onset, progression, and treatment of mental disorders such as anxiety and addiction. Our brain and memory also continue to change throughout ageing, hence, we are also examining ways to improve and maintain memory late in life. We will identify the mechanisms involved in pathological learning, memory, and behavior to design more effective treatment interventions. Our projects involve use of behavioural paradigms, transgenic models, and molecular/gene assays. By investigating the neural and the behavioural causes and consequences of youth susceptibility to mental health problems, and memory impairment in the aged, our lab aims to change understandings of mental health across the lifetime, and improve treatment outcomes for vulnerable populations.
All Projects by this LabAdolescent vulnerability to anxiety: a dopamine storyAdolescent vulnerability to addictionMemory, cognitive flexibility, and ageingEarly life stress and regulation of forgettingRegulation and inhibition of fear memory across development
The Division of Behavioural Neuroscience focuses on the use and development of models that reflect aspects of human disorders such as addiction, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, autism and neurodegenerative conditions such as Huntington’s disease. The Cognitive Neuroscience group additionally studies cognitive disorders caused by diseases such as stroke (cerebrovascular disease), Alzheimer's disease and other dementias from a clinical perspective.