A central goal of systems neuroscience is to understand the network mechanisms underlying our cognitive functions. Cognitive functions, such as decision-making and short-term memory, process and maintain external sensory information. In addition, cognitive functions are strongly influenced by so-called internal states in our daily life. For example, internal drives, such as hunger and thirst, bias our behavioral decisions toward eating or drinking to compensate for these needs. Furthermore, brains internally track the passage of time in order to take actions with appropriate timing, which is called urgency. Although it is the basis of our natural behavior, the neuronal mechanism underlying these specific and diverse effects of internal states on cognitions remain mostly unknown. Our research goal is to develop a cellular and network level understanding of how internal states, such as internal drives and urgency, modify dynamics in the frontal cortex to influence cognitive functions.
To achieve the goals, we will employ multidisciplinary approaches, including creating new molecular tools for circuit interrogation, developing novel ethologically relevant behavioral tasks, building theoretical models to generate testable predictions, and recording neurophysiological responses in conjunction with optogenetic manipulations.