Date: March 21, 2019. 12:00
Location: CCU Seminar Room
Title: Selective processing of need-relevant cues: a dialogue between hypothalamus, amygdala and cortex.
Affiliation: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center & Harvard University
While motivation is deliberately held fixed in most studies of selective attention, all mammals naturally shift their focus toward need-relevant sensory cues (e.g., visual cues associated with food) to meet the changing needs of the body (e.g. energy deficit). Our lab is exploiting these basic need states, and the genetically-defined hypothalamic neurons that control these states, as a natural means to direct a mouse’s attention toward need-relevant cues. As mice transition between hunger and satiety, we track neural responses in lateral association cortex and amygdala using two-photon calcium imaging during well-controlled visual discrimination tasks. We are testing the hypothesis that hunger and thirst selectively enhance perception, learning, and subsequent imagery of salient food cues by selectively modifying the cue-evoked and ongoing activity of specific sets of neurons in the cortex, amygdala and ventral tegmental area. In turn, cortical responses to food-predicting cues may drive anticipatory regulation of the hypothalamic neurons controlling food seeking and feeding. Establishing mechanistic links between historically disparate circuits governing homeostasis, motivation and cognition should help decipher how we flexibly learn and attend to cues predicting motivationally relevant outcomes.