Mazen Kheirbek, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Psychiatry
Institution
University of California, San Francisco
Address
675 Nelson Rising Lane
Box 0444, Room 514D
City, State, Zip
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone
415-514-8326
E-mail
mazen.kheirbek@ucsf.edu
Website
www.kheirbeklab.org
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2019

Research

Our lab will explore how sensory stimuli are represented in the brain, and how they may trigger the recall of emotionally salient memories. For example, certain smells can take you back to childhood, allowing you to recall a fond afternoon or favorite place. Others may evoke an unpleasant encounter or frightening event. How the brain tags such sensory information with emotional significance—and stores these memories for later retrieval—is still mysterious. Using a suite of state-of-the-art techniques that allow the manipulation and monitoring of single cells and neural circuits in awake animals, our group will determine how representations of sensory information are altered upon association with a fearful outcome. We will assess how being frightened can make a memory stronger and how similar stimuli can mistakenly trigger an inappropriate fear response, just as the sound of fireworks might spark unpleasant memories for a soldier experiencing PTSD. This work could lead to new methods for uncoupling associations that lead to severe anxiety.

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