Functional interactions between basolateral amygdala and mesocortical dopamine inputs to the medical prefrontal cortex: Electrophysiological and behavioral analyses

As part of a complex, interconnected neural network, the brain’s prefrontal cortex plays an important role in integrating emotional information for complex forms of cognition, such as planning, behavioural flexibility, decision-making and working memory (e.g. remembering a phone number just long enough to write it down). The amygdala — a brain structure residing in the temporal lobe — provides emotional information to the prefrontal cortex. Mesocortical dopamine transmission in the frontal lobes is also important in higher order cognitive processes. Dysfunction of the brain’s emotional and decision-making circuits is believed to be closely linked to diseases such as schizophrenia and drug addiction: patients with these disorders can show structural abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, decreased levels of cortical dopamine and impairments in emotional processes. Dr. Stanley Floresco is investigating the mechanisms through which emotional and decision-making circuits operate, and how their functioning is modulated by mesocortical dopamine. By shedding light on normal functioning in the brain at a cellular and behavioural level, these studies will increase understanding of the processes that underlie abnormal brain function in many psychiatric diseases.