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Neuroscience Graduate Program at UCSF

Faculty - Lisa Gunaydin, Ph.D.

Circuit basis of motivated behaviors in psychiatric disease

Research Description

Psychiatric disorders were historically thought to arise from a brain-wide chemical imbalance in neurotransmitter levels, but it is now becoming clear that they involve much more complex and subtle alterations in neural dynamics across specific synapses and networks in the brain. Our lab aims to understand the neural circuits underlying motivated behaviors and how they are perturbed in psychiatric diseases such as anxiety, autism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Because it is challenging to model complex human psychiatric disorders in their entirety in mice, we focus on discrete behavioral symptom domains that are tractable in rodents, such as social interaction, compulsive/repetitive behavior, and anxiety assays based on exploration and approach-avoidance conflict. Mechanisms underlying each of these fundamental behaviors are relevant to a broad range of human disorders (e.g. repetitive behavior is a symptom of both autism and OCD).

We are specifically interested in how top-down projections from the prefrontal cortex regulate subcortical areas involved in emotional behaviors. To address these questions we employ a combination of rodent behavioral assays, optogenetics, and neural recording. We focus on optical recording approaches such as fiber photometry, which allows us to record the activity of genetically defined cells and axonal projections in a behaving animal. This multifaceted approach allows us to 1) correlate endogenous patterns of cell type- and projection-specific neural circuit activity with specific behaviors, 2) manipulate these same circuits using optogenetic stimulation and inhibition to determine their causal role in behavior, and 3) use these basic scientific insights to guide targeted circuit manipulation as a way to ameliorate pathological behaviors in disease models.

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Current Projects

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Lab Members

Currently looking for motivated students and post-docs!

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Selected Publications

Gunaydin LA, Kreitzer AC. Cortico-basal ganglia circuit function in psychiatric disease. Annual Review of Physiology 78:327-50.

Adhikari A, Lerner TN, Finkelstein J, Pak S, Jennings JH, Davidson TJ, Ferenczi E, Gunaydin LA, Mirzabekov JJ, Ye L, Kim SY, Lei A, Deisseroth K (2015). Basomedial amygdala mediates top-down control of anxiety and fear. Nature 527:179-185.

Gunaydin LA, Grosenick L, Finkelstein JC, Kauvar I, Fenno LE, Adhikari A, Lammel S, Mirzabekov J, Airan RD, Zalocusky KA, Tye KM, Anikeeva P, Malenka R, Deisseroth K (2014). Natural neural projection dynamics underlying social behavior. Cell 157(7):1535-51.

Gunaydin LA*, Yizhar O*, Berndt A*, Sohal VS, Deisseroth K, Hegemann P (2010). Ultrafast optogenetic control. Nature Neuroscience 13(3):387-92.

Berndt A*, Yizhar O*, Gunaydin LA*, Hegemann P, and Deisseroth K. Bi-stable neural state switches (2009). Nature Neuroscience 12(2):229-34. *co-first authors

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Lisa Gunaydin, Ph.D.


Phone 415-502-7342

Office Address

675 Nelson Rising Lane
Room 314A, Box 0518
San Francisco, CA 94158

Other Websites

Coming soon