Understanding the roles of the subcortical and cortical visual pathways in the making and breaking of habits

Year of award: 2022


  • Dr Sarah Ruediger

    University College London

Project summary

The brain's capacity to make and break habits affects every domain of our life and depends on the ability to detect and transform sensory inputs into appropriate actions. How neuronal circuits regulate this process is major open question in neuroscience. In mammals, cortical and subcortical sensory circuits are involved, but their relative contributions to the making and breaking of habits remain elusive. To address this issue, I will study the circuit mechanisms underlying visually guided actions in the mouse as a genetically tractable mammalian model organism by combing large-scale in vivo electrophysiology and two-photon imaging to monitor brain activity with viral approaches to perturb defined circuit elements. This powerful approach will enable me to discover (1) how cortical and subcortical visual circuits control goal-directed and habitual actions, (2) how fluctuations in neuronal activity in these circuits contribute to moment-to-moment variability of behaviour, and (3) how aberrations in these circuits contribute to behavioural impairments in genetic mouse models of autism spectrum disorder. Overall, this research will provide a deeper understanding of brain circuit mechanisms that underlie the making and breaking of habits and may point to convergent circuit dysfunctions that potentially underlie negative symptoms in neurobehavioural disorders.