Ilana Witten
Systems and Circuits
Systems and Circuits

Associate Professor of Psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

Ph.D., Stanford University, 2008

Areas of Research: Neural circuits underlying reward and motivation
Research Lab
154 PNI

Research Focus

Neural circuits mediating learning and decision making.

How we respond to stimuli in our environment is not static, but is instead fundamentally shaped by our experiences, both positive and negative. For example, if a stimulus has been associated with a rewarding event, it draws our attention, accesses our memory systems, and motivates our behavior. Although neural correlates of these phenomena have been identified in many brain regions, we only now have the tools to begin to understand how neural circuits perform the computations that underlie reward learning and decision making. Our main focus is in illuminating the function of cell-types within corticostriatal circuits in behaviors that involve learning and working memory.  We are particularly interested in the role of dynamics within defined cell-types: if and when does the temporal pattern of activity within neurons affect their function? By integrating a wide range of technical approaches – rodent behavior, cellular-resolution imaging from defined cell-types, optogenetics for cell-type specific manipulation, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology, and computational analyses – our lab is providing new insights in how genetically and anatomically-defined cell-types mediate learning and decision making.

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