Inhibitory brain dynamics for adaptive behaviour


  • Prof Jeffrey Dalley

    University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

  • Dr Uzay Emir

    Purdue University, United States

  • Prof Ole Paulsen

    University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

  • Prof Dmitri Rusakov

    University College London, United Kingdom

  • Prof George Malliaras

    University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

  • Dr Loren Looger

    Howard Hughes Medical Institute, United States

  • Prof Zoe Kourtzi

    University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

  • Dr Jasper Poort

    University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Project summary

The brain learns by changing how neurons communicate, i.e., excite or inhibit each other. Here we focus on how GABA, the primary chemical inhibitor in the brain, supports learning. We currently have a poor understanding of its role because of a fundamental disconnect between research in animals vs. humans. We capitalise on recent advances in brain imaging to trace GABA non-invasively in the human and mouse brain. To validate these measurements, we employ state-of-the art sensors to measure and manipulate GABA in mice and test its role in controlling brain activity and connectivity. Finally, we employ interventions, stimulating brain regions or specific inhibitory neurons, to interrogate causal mechanisms of learning. This work across species and scales (from neurons to brain networks) will advance understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of learning and brain plasticity, with potential for translation to neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders related to disruption of inhibition in brain networks.