An interdisciplinary group to unravel circuit function


Garret Stuber

Ph.D., Associate Professor

Garret received his B.S. degree from University of Washington in 2000 and his Ph.D. in Neurobiology from UNC Chapel Hill in 2005 where he worked with Regina Carelli and Mark Wightman.  He completed his postdoctoral work with Antonello Bonci at UCSF where he learned slice electrophysiology and established optogenetic approaches to study neural circuit function.  

Garret started the lab in 2010 in the Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience Center at UNC.  He has co-authored over 50 manuscripts on the neurocircuitry underlying motivated behavior.  While not in the lab Garret spends time with his family and enjoys cycling and traveling.  


Jenna McHenry

Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

The neural circuitry that mediates reward processing is dysfunctional in neuropsychiatric illnesses. Sex differences are evident in affective disorders and prevalent during times of hormonal flux and the postpartum period. In the Stuber lab, Jenna is investigating the functional connectivity of mPOA circuits that regulate hormone-mediated reward processing and innate sex-specific motivated behavior to gain mechanistic insight into neural mechanisms that may reinforce natural rewards and regulate motivational states in females.


James Otis

Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Expression of emotional memories can drive maladaptive behaviors, such as drug seeking in addiction and avoidance in fear disorders.  Jim's research focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms of these memories, with emphasis on methods that lead to targeted memory inhibition or erasure.  As a graduate student in Devin Mueller’s lab, Jim studied memory at a cellular level and found that cocaine-induced neuroplasticity and cocaine-associated memories are susceptible to erasure during memory retrieval.  How this memory-related neuroplasticity functions within a neural circuit to drive drug seeking, however, remains unclear.  Thus, his research plan in the Stuber lab is to study the neural circuits underlying emotional memories.  To do this, Jim will use innovative research strategies that allow measurement and control of neuronal activity within genetically-defined neural circuits.


Vijay Namboodiri

Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Vijay got his Ph.D. in the lab of Marshall Hussain Shuler at Johns Hopkins University.  In the lab, he studied how humans and animals process time and include it in their decisions. His work involved in-vivo single unit electrophysiological recording and optogenetics in awake, behaving rats in a timing task that he developed. He showed that neurons in the primary visual cortex can encode an interval and that modifying this representation is sufficient to perturb behavior. He also developed theoretical models of how we perceive time and how it affects the decisions that we make, along with developing some human psychophysics tasks to address these questions experimentally in humans. In the Stuber lab, he is interested in how these computations are performed in the brain by studying the circuitry and connections of ventral tegemental area, along with its encoding of behavioral decisions.


Mark Rossi

Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Mark is interested in understanding how the brain orchestrates motivated behaviors. As a graduate student of Henry Yin at Duke University, he used in vivo electrophysiological recordings and optogenetic manipulations to study how the basal ganglia control appetitive and consummatory behaviors in mice.  In the Stuber lab, Mark plans to study the lateral hypothalamus and related circuitry to identify and understand specific neural circuits that contribute to feeding behavior. 


Jose Rodríguez-Romaguera

Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Elevated anxiety is the hallmark of many psychiatric disorders.  This increase in anxiety is believed to be caused by dysfunctional neuronal circuits. During Jose’s postdoctoral training in the Stuber Lab, he plans to incorporate novel methods to determine how specific neuronal populations contribute to distinct anxiety-like behaviors. Prior to joining the Stuber Lab, he worked in the laboratory of Gregory Quirk at the University of Puerto Rico studying the neural circuits of conditioned fear and avoidance.


Ivan Trujillo-Pisanty

Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Ivan studies the neural circuitry of reward, motivated behaviors, and decision making. He is particularly interested in the role of these circuits in impulse control disorders such as addiction and compulsive overeating. He got his Ph.D. at Concordia University in Montreal, under the supervision of Peter Shizgal. He used a combination of pharmacology, electrical and optical stimulation, and mathematical modeling of behavior to dissect different computational stages of reward processing in the midbrain and its afferents. During his postdoctoral training at the Stuber lab, he will use cutting edge strategies to stimulate, inhibit, and record from specific reward-relevant neurons during operant behavior to further dissect the neural circuitry underlying reward and feeding.


 
 

Heather Decot

Neurobiology Graduate Student

Heather graduated from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA with a B.S. in Biology in May 2008.  After graduation, she worked as a postbaccalaureate fellow in the Clinical Brain Disorders Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health at the NIH in Bethesda, MD working in the lab of José A. Apud, Clinical Director of the Schizophrenia Research Program.  Heather joined the Stuber lab in 2012 and has been working on a project in collaboration with the lab of Yen-Yu Ian Shih, coupling optogenetic stimulation with fMRI in an in vivo rat model to selectively activate dopamine (DA) neuron cell bodies in the ventral tegmental area. Through these experiments, she hopes to provide mechanistic insight into how DA neuromodulation affects large-scale brain network function and how it may relate to the fundamental neural circuit mechanisms underlying addiction.  

 

 
 

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Rhiana Simon

Graduate Student

Rhiana received her B.S. in Neuroscience from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. During her undergraduate pursuits, she worked in the lab of Jeremy Day, where she examined the role of noncoding RNAs in neuronal activity. Studying noncoding RNAs such as enhancer RNAs, which are often expressed in a tissue- and context-specific manner, inspired her interest in genes and other factors underlying cell identity. She is currently learning drop-seq and other fundamental neuroscience techniques to target discrete cell populations in the brain.


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Marcus Basiri

MD/Ph.D. Student

Our social world exerts powerful influence on our both our physical and mental well-being.  This strong influence stems from the potential for social experiences to modulate the development and maintenance of neural circuits that regulate motivational states, emotional processing, and cognition. Given the strong connection between mental health and positive social support systems, Marcus is interested in understanding the neural mechanisms that underlie the development of the social brain and how the proper development and functioning of such circuits contributes to adaptive psychological processes. Conversely, he is also interested in how adverse life experiences, both of a social and non-social nature, contribute to dysfunctions in brain network activity that ultimately results in psychopathological disease states.  

 


Randall Ung

MD/Ph.D. Student

Randall graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010 with degrees in Mathematics and Biology. He is currently an MD/PhD student in the lab and is interested in understanding how neural mechanisms translate into both normal and aberrant phenotypes. Specifically, he aims to decipher how prefrontal cortex and related subcortical areas coordinate behavioral states under conditions of stress using innovative approaches in imaging and computation. Outside the lab, Randall enjoys spending time with his wife and two dogs, eating food, and doing random projects.


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Koichi Hashikawa

Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow

Two opposing characteristics of neuronal circuits,  ‘hard-wired’ and ‘plastic’, maximize the survival and reproduction of animals. Koichi conducted his Ph.D. training in Norio Matsuki’s lab at the University of Tokyo on the study of neural mechanisms of taste associative memory formation (plasticity) by using pharmacogenetics. In his early postdoctoral training in Dayu Lin’s lab at New York University, he shifted his research focus on dissecting circuits for stereotypical social behaviors. As Koichi transitions from his postdoctoral studies, he is interested in investigating how rigid neural circuits could have flexibility by reflecting the internal states of the animals. This requires multidisciplinary approaches such as utilizing molecular genetics, imaging, and functional dissection tools, and he hopes to gain experience with these techniques during his visit to the Stuber lab.


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Yoshiko Hashikawa

Visiting Technician

Yoshiko is from New York University. Her expertise is in the molecular analysis of data on behaviors such as female aggression and reproduction.


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Hanna van den Munkhof

Visiting Graduate Student

Hanna is working in the Stuber lab to help develop a novel automated method to analyze animal behavior using a depth camera. She is most interested in the neuronal pathways of motivation, especially when behavior becomes seemingly disadvantageous from evolutionary perspectives, such as in overeating and addiction. After finishing a Masters in biomedical sciences at the Utrecht University in 2013, where she participated in fMRI studies in mechanisms of cocaine addiction and inhibitory control, she worked at the Biomedical Research Institute of Barcelona in Spain, where she studied the involvement of the corticothalamic circuit in schizophrenia using in vivo electrophysiology. Next year she will start her own graduate program, continuing to investigate the neuronal mechanisms of (mal)adaptive behaviors.


Oksana Kosyk

Stuber Lab Manager

Oksana is the Stuber Lab Manager.  She is the glue that keeps us together.  Oksana is in charge of overseeing the day to day functions of the lab, as well as assisting with experiments.  She is an outstanding person to work with, and she knows where to find the best strawberries in town. 


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Rose Ying

Research Technician

Rose graduated from Wake Forest University in 2017 with a B.S. in Biology. As an undergraduate, she worked with Wayne Pratt, focusing on the effects of pharmacological manipulation of CB1 receptors in the nucleus accumbens on consummatory and appetitive feeding behavior in rats. She is interested in pursuing grad school studies in behavioral neuroscience, but is first taking some time off from school to learn about all the cool neurocircuitry technologies in the Stuber Lab.


Undergraduate

Research Assistants

Abby Callahan

Abby helps out with Ivan Trujillo-Pisanty's projects on feeding and motivational behaviors.

Ana Matan

Ana is working with James Otis studying avoidance behaviors in mice.

Chichi Zhu

Chichi works with Jose Rodríguez-Romaguera investigating anxious behaviors in mice. 

Cory Cook

Cory helps James Otis study avoidance behaviors in mice.

Jenny Montoya

Jenny works with Marcus Basiri.

Lindsey Brady

Lindsey works with Randall Ung.

Noah Miller

Noah is an undergraduate dual-majoring in Psychology (B.S.) and Biology (B.S.), with a minor in Neuroscience.  After Undergrad, he wants to go on to a Graduate program in hopes of pursuing a research career within the field of Neuroscience. Noah's interests include the cognitive processes of learning, plasticity, and memory, but the Stuber Lab has shown him that there is a lot of interesting potential with circuit-linked behavior. Within the Stuber Lab, he works under Jenna McHenry, studying sex-linked motivational behavior in female mice.

Rizk Alghorazi

Rizk is double majoring in Biology (B.S.) and Psychology (B.S.), with a minor in Neuroscience. In the lab, he works closely with Vijay Namboodiri, studying learning in the Orbital Frontal Cortex and the projections to the Ventral Tegmental Area. In the future, he is interested in studying neurological disorders such as epilepsy. He is also interested in studying the neural circuits that are involved in motivation, through the techniques he has learned in the lab.

Wilson Guo

Wilson works with Mark Rossi investigating the circuitry of feeding behaviors.


Lab Alumni

Louisa Eckman, Research Technician, M.D. student at Virginia Tech

Kay van Heeswijk, Visiting Graduate Student

Shanna Resendez, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Inscopix

Elisa Voets, Visiting Graduate Student, University of Utrecht

Hiroshi Nomura, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow

Ruud van Zessen, Ph.D Student, University of Utrecht

Alice Stamatakis, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Inscopix

Josh Jennings, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Deisseroth Lab, Stanford University

Dennis Sparta, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at University of Maryland School of Medicine