Recent research has suggested that the orbitofrontal cortex is a critical node in determining the economic values of offers presented to a decision-maker. Using an economic decision-making task adapted from primate studies, we found that optogenetic inactivation of orbitofrontal cortex in rats has no effect on economic decision-making during well-experienced decisions.
We then tested whether orbitofrontal cortex might be required when the landscape of the offers has either changed or is experienced for the first time, and we found that inactivation of orbitofrontal cortex disrupted decision-making in these situations.
This finding fits with emerging evidence that the orbitofrontal cortex may be involved in learning state-based models of the environment.
The fundamental undercurrent of my research is to understand how cognitive brain regions interact with sensory regions to create predictive representations of the environment and, in parallel, to determine how these representations are utilized to guide behavior. I have several separate lines of research which all attempt to approach this question from different perspectives. Most recently, I have been focusing on how models of stimulus relationships can be learned, such as through the formation of abstract cognitive maps, and how these models can be manipulated during maladaptive states, such as during substance use. I use optogenetics, in vivo electrophysiology, and calcium imaging techniques within well-designed behaviors, along with computational
models, as my primary toolset.