This project combines cutting-edge genetic tools (chemogenetics and optogenetics) with sophisticated models of animal behaviour (sensory preconditioning in rats). The ideal candidate will have a background in animal learning and behaviour, behavioural neuroscience and/or neuropharmacology. With this background, it is expected that the candidate will have an interest/experience in animal models of behavioural disorders, and/or an understanding of basic techniques in these areas (e.g., use of viral-based approaches to study learning and memory). Candidates with a background in related disciplines (e.g., other aspects of neuroscience) are strongly encouraged to apply.
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This project uses an animal model to investigate how motivational states regulate the processing of innocuous information. It specifically examines the limbic circuits that are involved in processing innocuous sensory associations when rats are fearful (e.g., in a shock-paired context) or in an appetitive motivational state (e.g., in a sucrose- or cocaine-paired context). By studying how different motivational states engage limbic circuits (e.g., the amygdala) for processing these sensory associations, this project will improve our understanding of how people and animals process innocuous information, and disorders characterized by deficits in processing this type of information, including the anxieties and addictions.