Mariana Duhne Aguayo, Ph.D.

Title
Postdoctoral fellow
Department
Neurology
Institution
University of California, San Francisco
Address
675 Nelson Rising Lane
City, State, ZIP
San Francisco, CA 94158
Email
[email protected]
Website
http://berkelab.org/
Research field
Neuroscience
Award year
2021
Country of origin
Mexico
Mentor name
Joshua Berke, Ph.D.

Research

In the Berke lab, I will map the neural circuits that calibrate how swiftly animals move performing actions. Animals, including humans, respond with speed and enthusiasm when motivated by the possibility of reward—dashing quickly toward an area where some treat had previously been provided. Such directed locomotion is orchestrated, in part, by a group of cells called interneurons: Deficits in these intermediary cells are linked to uncontrolled movements in a number of neurological disorders, such as Huntington’s disease and Tourette syndrome. But how their activity is regulated by the circuits that allow animals to assess the size of the “reward” that awaits them—and thus how rapidly they should hustle—is unknown. Using an innovative array of techniques in genetics, molecular biology, neuronal physiology, and computational modeling developed in the Berke lab, I will monitor and characterize the activity of different interneurons as rats weigh how swiftly to move to access offered treats. At the same time, I will determine how dopamine, a brain chemical that carries information about rewards, affects this activity—and the behavior of the animal. This work will reveal how animals decide whether rapid movement is worthwhile and could provide novel therapies for the treatment of a variety of movement disorders.

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