How do diverse brains implement diverse strategies to achieve goals?
Brains exist to allow flexible behavior in the face of changing circumstances in the world. In order to be successful, it should be possible for brains to produce a variety of different strategies for tackling a complex problem. To best ensure survival, variety should be seen both within a single individual, and between individuals.
How do brains implement different cognitive strategies, both between individuals, and within them? To answer this question, our laboratory studies individual differences and sex differences in motivated behavior and executive function in mouse models.
We work across levels of analysis, incorporating the tools of molecular biology, in vivo photometry, touchscreen cognitive assessment, and computational neuroscience, to find the genes, pathways, circuits, and strategies that influence reinforcement learning, decision making, and control of impulses and action selection.
Abilities in these cognitive domains are often altered in neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and ADHD. For multiple reasons, these conditions are also diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls. Because of this, our work has a particular focus in understanding how factors associated with neurodevelopmental conditions influence cognition across sexes.
The NeuroGOAL lab is directed by Dr. Nicola Grissom and is a part of the Psychology Department at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus.