INVESTIGATING NEURAL CIRCUITS IN STRESS AND DECISION MAKING
Goal-directed behaviors and effective decision making are essential for survival. They dictate how we interact with our environment to obtain physical needs such as food and shelter, how we pursue rewards, and how we avoid threats.
Stress reprioritizes decision making. Acutely, this is essential for survival, but when this reprioritization outlives the existential threat, it becomes maladaptive. It is no surprise that prior experience with stress increases the risk for most neuropsychiatric disorders—nearly all of which include impairments in decision making and goal-directed behavior. What is striking is that despite recent progress in understanding the neural basis of decision making, the impacts of stress history on decision processes and the underlying neural circuitry remains poorly understood.
My research thus addresses two fundamental questions: