Western Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience
Research Interests / Specializations: Lisa Saksida and I are PIs in the Translational Cognitive Neuroscience Lab (TCNLab). The driving force behind all of the work in our lab is exactly as the name suggests: we want to understand the neuroscience of cognition, and to facilitate translation of that understanding from animal models to humans and back again. Historically our interest has been in the basic research question: What is the organization, and what are the mechanisms, underlying cognition in the brain? We like to think we’ve come up with some answers, but to do so, we’ve needed to develop some new methodologies … some of which you can find about in more detail on our website.
Scientific Director of BrainsCAN Initiative, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience
Research Interests / Specializations: We are working toward a better understanding of the psychological processes underlying memory and perception through a programme of theoretically-driven experimental research using both healthy subjects and brain-damaged populations. Research in my lab spans across several species (from mouse to human) and techniques (lesion studies, pharmacology, computational modelling, genetically modified mouse models, patient studies), in each case using the appropriate species and technique for the specific question at hand.
BrainsCAN Research Fellow
Research Interests / Specializations: My research seeks to understand how obesity-inducing diets impact on memory, cognition and behaviour. I use a multidimensional approach to determine neurobiological changes in rodents exposed to obesogenic high fat and/or high sugar diets, allowing the definition of critical windows of neurodevelopment impacted by diet, in particular adolescence. This is combined with molecular biology and functional imaging (rsfMRI) to examine functional changes to the brain.
Research Interests / Specializations: My research is concerned with the development and application of touchscreen tasks for the investigation of different aspects of depressive-like behaviour in rodents. These trans-diagnostic phenotypes, including apathy, anhedonia, negative cognitive affective bias and negative responses to environmental stimuli, are closely associated with functional impairment in sufferers. Additionally, there is currently a shortage of widely accepted therapeutic agents. As such, we have developed a battery of pre-clinical touchscreen tasks for the quantitative assessment of these domains and are currently investigating neural and pharmacological determinants of performance.
Research Interests / Specializations: I am interested in using translational measures of motivated behaviour to help develop novel treatments for motivational deficits associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and Schizophrenia
Beth Fisher, BSc, MSc, MRes
Graduate Student PhD
Research Interests / Specializations: My research focusses on the role of the cholinergic system within the basal forebrain (BF) and the dorsal and ventral medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in attentional function in rats. It is well known that the basal forebrain cholinergic system plays a role in attentional function. Research also indicates a possible dissociation of function of the dorsal verses ventral mPFC. To investigate this further, I utilise general and cholinergic-selective lesioning of the BF and dorsal/ventral mPFC, DREADDs technology (Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs) to selectively silence/stimulate cholinergic projections from the BF to the dorsal/ventral mPFC, and a range of systemic pharmacology to manipulate the cholinergic system at a general and receptor-selective level. The behavioural assays I use to asses attentional function are the touchscreen based 5-Choice Serial Reaction Time Task (5-CSRTT), which measures spatial, divided attention for signal detection, and the novel, touchscreen-based, rodent Continuous Performance Task (rCPT), which measures sustained, focused attention for both visual detection and identification. rCPT has been designed to be identical to the human CPT, used to evaluate cognition clinically, so promising findings made by using this task at a preclinical level can be more readily and more successfully translated to humans.
Laura Lopez Cruz
Post Doc, Research Associate
Research Interests / Specializations: My research focuses on the development and validation of a series of touchscreen-based assays for the evaluation of motivation and affective state in laboratory rodents. We subsequently employ pharmacological or behavioral manipulations to improve understanding of the mechanisms that underlie these psychological processes.
Daniel De Haan
Research Interests / Specializations: I am a philosopher working on the neuroscience strand of the Templeton World Charity Foundation's Theology, Philosophy of Religion, and the Sciences project. My research in the TCNLab concerns a host of issues in philosophical anthropology and the philosophy of neuroscience and psychology. I am currently focused on problems pertaining to the practices of psychological attribution in developmental and comparative animal psychology as they relate to non-theory models of psychological attribution, Morgan's canon, minimal theories of mind, and mindreading. I am also interested in the explanatory role of modularity and mechanisms in psychology and neuroscience, and the neurophilosophy debates about free will, addiction, and the loss of personal identity in dementia patients with memory deficits.
Research Interests / Specializations: With a main interest on the link between ageing-related impairment in neurometabolism and pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, I am conducting studies on development and application of the touchscreen-based behavioural tasks to translational dementia models, generated by pharmacological or genetic modulation of the brain function.
Collaborator and Visiting Researcher, Lecturer in Health Sciences, The Open University, UK
Research Interests / Specializations: I am interested in understanding how pathology-related molecular and cellular changes in defined neuronal circuits affect behaviour and cognition in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disease. My current work is focused on the circuitry involved in the modulation of motivation and affective state and the development of novel touchscreen tasks to evaluate these constructs.
Collaborator, PhD Candidate
Research Interests / Specializations: Exploring the role of the cholinergic pedunculopontine nucleus in cognitive function, specifically attentional modulation. This work stems from my thesis, which involves investigating the molecular and anatomical mechanisms behind deep brain stimulation therapy in Parkinson's disease.
Research Interests / Specializations: I study cognition in experimental animals in order to define and characterise the neural circuits underpinning habits and behavioural flexibility, with the ultimate aim of understanding how changes in these circuits contribute to impaired cognition in schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In addition, I am interested in the mechanisms behind the loss of control over one’s actions displayed in drug addiction and binge-eating disorder. Much of my research in the lab of T.W. Robbins in Cambridge is founded on touchscreen-based tasks which I have developed (and continue to develop) in close collaboration with the TCNlab. We combine such tools with viral gene transfer (e.g. DREADD or shRNA) and neuropharmacology targeting fronto-striatal pathways and other circuits in the brain.
Mona El-Sayed Hervig
Collaborator, Post-Doctoral Researcher
Research Interests / Specializations: My general interest is the cognitive control over behaviours such as compulsivity and impulsivity in psychiatric disorders. I am currently investigating the role of serotoninergic and dopaminergic modulation of the neural circuitry controlling compulsive behaviour in preclinical models. I use touch screen based tests combined with pharmacological and chemogenetic approaches.
John Apergis-Schoute Apergis-Schoute
Collaborator, Lecturer in Psychology
Research Interests / Specializations: Dr. John Apergis-Schoute is currently a lecturer of Psychology in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour at the University of Leicester. Immediately prior at the University of Cambridge, he was awarded a Dorothy Hodgkin Royal Society Fellowship to elucidate the relationship between emotions and appetite by determining the neural circuits linking the two. Now at the University of Leicester his group aims to shed light on the neural systems that impart control over the urge to eat. The prefrontal cortex and hypothalamus are respectively important for decision-making and for appetite. Using advanced circuit-mapping technology in rodent eating disorder models his group’s research is focused on determining the mechanisms by which the functional connectivity between these regions can guide appropriate food seeking behaviour. In a world where food is becoming more available our appetite no longer simply reflects our nutritional needs but has become associated with a number of psychological factors that strongly affect our desire to eat. Understanding how brain regions that encode appetite and ones important for decision-making are functionally connected will help establish how different psychological factors can affect our eating habits.
Sujeong Yang Yang
ARUK Research Fellow
Research Interests / Specializations: Investigate the role of extracellular matrix on cognition
Post Doctoral Fellow
Research Interests / Specializations: My research focusses on the function of newly born neurons in the dentate gyrus and their involvement in cognition. I'm trying to answer some exciting questions such as, how do these neurons separate similar experiences? Are they involved in forgetting? What will happen when they grow older? And many many more
David I. Wasserman
Post Doctoral Associate
Research Interests / Specializations: I am interested in studying aspects of cognition in rodent models. I am working on the neurobiology of metacognition. How does the brain assess the confidence of perceptual judgements? Can metacognition and perceptual processing be dissociated?
Biography: Throughout undergrad, I worked in a neural plasticity lab, focusing on the impact of brain change on behavioural and protein changes and vice versa. For my masters, I will be looking at neural plasticity in response to antidepressant treatment in rodents and how this affects motivation on a touchscreen task.
Biography: Recently graduated from the University of Prince Edward Island with a double major in psychology and biology, my undergraduate research primarily focussed on evaluating behavioural responses to stressful stimuli in the zebrafish. I have also had the opportunity to assist on projects investigating the implications for pesticide exposure on zebrafish cardiac physiology, and the development of a progressive rodent model of Parkinson’s disease. I am interested in the neuropathology underlying psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases, and how these deficits are manifested at a functional level. As such, my interest encompasses the use and characterization of behavioural paradigms to improve translation between animal models and humans.