Quick Project Snapshot
Regulation and inhibition of fear memory across development
This project focuses on the regulation of emotional memory across development, from early childhood to adolescence. Childhood represents a unique period of vulnerability to the development of anxious behaviours and anxiety disorders. Sadly, earlier onset is also associated with more severe symptoms and increased resistance to treatment. This project models pathological learning during childhood and adolescence using a Pavlovian fear conditioning paradigm, with the aim of characterizing brain changes associated with inhibition of these learned behaviors. Currently, treatments for anxiety disorders involve cognitive-behavioural therapies that rely on this process of behavioural inhibition, defined as extinction. Extinction is the decrease in fear responses expressed to a fearful stimulus due to the repeated exposure to the stimulus without any aversive outcome. We have accumulated powerful evidence that extinction is actually memory erasure in juvenile rats, whereas extinction is new learning in adult rats. By characterizing the neural mechanisms involved in the extinction of learned fear behaviors, findings from this project will ultimately help develop targeted interventions to improve treatment outcomes for anxiety in young people.
Ganella DE & Kim JH (2014). Developmental rodent models of fear and anxiety: From neurobiology to pharmacology. British Journal of Pharmacology, 171: 4556-4574.
Kim JH & Richardson R (2010). New findings on extinction of conditioned fear early in development: Theoretical and clinical implications. Biological Psychiatry, 67: 297-303.
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.