Host institution: University of Bristol, UK

ESR5 – Cerebellar contributions to the control of integrated affective behaviours

This project will explore the possibility that different cerebellar modules modulate different aspects of affective behaviour, with a focus on integrated motor and autonomic responses in rats. To determine if prediction error signals from the cerebellum modulate autonomic responses both negative (fearful) and positive (reward) associative behavioural paradigms will be used.  Manipulations will be made of the learned associations to create a mismatch between the predicted and actual outcome. For example, prediction error signals will be created by the omission of an expected footshock in a fear conditioning paradigm or omission of reward in a reward conditioning paradigm. The experiments will be tailored to the student’s interest but include in awake behaving rats, the use of state-of-the-art multi brain site electrophysiological recording and/or calcium imaging techniques, together with ECG/telemetric recording and the latest viral transfection methods to modulate neural circuits (e.g. cre-dependent DREADDs). The results will be compared to the electrophysiological and calcium imaging findings obtained in ESRs 1-4 and related clinical research (ESR10). Collaboration with Wurzburg will provide guidance on the use of viral techniques and calcium imaging (e.g. Purkinje cell specific promoters).

These experiments will provide new insights into cerebellar contributions to integrated behavioural responses elicited by affective state.

Planned secondments: Blackrock microsystems, month 11, purpose: training in latest multi-channel recording to investigate neural circuit dynamics; Wurzburg, months 13 – 15, purpose: to learn how to make state of the art viruses targeting cerebellar Purkinje cells.