The McNaughton laboratory is part the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior and is affiliated with the multidisciplinary effort of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (CNLM) at the University of California, Irvine. The lab studies cognition with particular emphasis on physiological and computational underpinnings of memory and associated disorders. The principle investigator, Professor Bruce L. McNaughton, Ph.D., is a distinguished pioneer in the field.
We focus on the study of neural circuitry essential to different behavioral/cognitive conditions, particularly the exchange between hippocampus and diverse neocortical regions. We utilize a variety of recording techniques optimized for the question posed by a given experimental paradigm including multielectrode electrophysiology, Ca2+ imaging, Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging (VSDI), Immediate-Early Gene markers (IEG), behavioral tracking, that includes explorations in immersive 3-dimensional virtual reality environments, categorical and varied stimuli known as Environmental Enrichment (EE), as well as refined spatio-cognitive tasks. We also precisely manipulate circuit functionality through open and closed-loop optogenetic stimulation and targeted lesioning. In these ways we endeavor to decipher environmental analogues in neuronal encoding, contextual dynamics in learning, and behavior-dependent plasticity.
These endeavors further our understanding of how spatial and high-order processing occurs, including incorporation of new experiences into long-term memory through consolidation, replay mechanisms, and attractor network function. We are examining fundamental mechanisms behind some of these central questions of neuroscience which are coevolving with computational theory, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. In terms of translation, this work offers hope to those suffering from memory impairments related to injury, aging, or diseases including Alzheimer’s Disease. We continue to push forward against the envelope of technological capability, directing energy toward treatments such as neuroprosthetics that facilitate movement and interaction in patients with paralysis/spinal injury, blindness, or deafness, and computational neuronal network modelling that will enable a reduction in research animal use.