West Lab

Rowan Research

  • West Lab

West Lab

Welcome to the West Lab

Animals must learn environmental cues that predict particular outcomes (positive, neutral or negative) to decide upon the most advantageous action. However, in a changing environment, a once-adaptive behavior can become maladaptive. Thus, optimal decision-making requires the ability to update predictions in real-time to redirect behavior. However, this is eroded in a range of neuropsychiatric disorders, including substance use disorders (SUDs), anxiety disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. The goals of the West Lab are to: 1) identify the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie learning, decision-making and cognitive flexibility, 2) elucidate how these neural circuits are altered in animal models, and 3) restore function to these circuits with the aim of improving decision-making in disease states.  To achieve these aims, we utilize state-of-the-art in vivo recording techniques including in vivo electrophysiology and optical imaging (cellular Ca++ imaging) to characterize neural circuits necessary for learning and decision-making in awake behaving rats. We also employ optogenetic, chemogenetic, and pharmacological manipulations to assess causality at the circuit level. Finally, we aim to develop and test potential treatment strategies, such as non-invasive brain stimulation, to restore decision-making deficits in relevant models of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.

If you are interested in joining our team, please contact Elizabeth West (westniedringhaus@rowan.edu). We are currently accepting graduate students (Rowan University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences) and post-docs.