CohenLab

Department of Neuroscience
Brain Science Institute
The Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine


Research

Our behavior is governed by basic emotions and internal states, often arising from rewards and punishments. These states influence how we learn and make decisions. We seek to understand how neural circuits control these fundamental mammalian behaviors.

We are currently studying how neurons that release monoamines (serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) are involved in behavior. These neurons make up less than one-thousandth of one percent of the neurons in our brain, yet they broadcast their signals to most of the brain. Many disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, drug addiction, and Parkinson's disease, appear to involve dysfunction of monoaminergic signaling. Surprisingly, we know little about how these neurons are involved in normal behavior. Using cell-type-specific tools and well-controlled behavioral tasks in mice, we aim to understand the function of monoaminergic circuits in behavior. We hope these basic discoveries will lead to an understanding of the biology of the brain and better treatments for disorders of the brain.

Techniques

We use a range of techniques to study neural circuits:

  • Electrophysiology and imaging
  • Well-controlled behavioral tasks
  • Molecular and genetic tools to target specific cell types
  • Computational techniques