On a moment-to-moment basis, our brains are exposed to a medley of events. Although most events are incidental, some are related with one another and predict positive or negative events that only become apparent at a later time point. The ability to identify these valuable event relationships without constantly learning irrelevant ones is vital for survival and mental health. We are interested in how regions in the cortex capture, stabilize and utilize relevant event relationships encountered during daily experiences. By combining multi-electrode recording, optogenetic, and chemogenetic approaches with an established associative learning paradigm in rodents, we address this question with three directions.
How can we learn which events are important?
One critical factor underlies the detection of event relationship is temporal proximity. We often associate two events that occur closely in time but do not associate two events separated by a long interval. We seek to uncover how the brain sets the temporal boundary of event associations by probing a method to enhance rats’ ability to link events across time. We also examine how the manipulation changes the brain activity associated with event detection to identify a neural correlate for cognitive enhancement.
Jarovi J, Volle J, Yu XT, Guan L, Takehara-Nishiuchi K (2018) Increased prefrontal activity sharpens the selectivity of prefrontal theta oscillations for the mnemonic value of events and facilitates their encoding. eNeuro, 0407-18.
Volle J, Yu XT, Sun H, Tanninen SE, Takehara-Nishiuchi K (2016) Enhancing prefrontal neuron excitability enables associative learning of temporally disparate events. Cell Reports, 15, 1-11.