LSU Vet Med researcher awarded $1.8 million grant by NIMH for brain circuit research

November 30, 2023

Michael Ogundele

Michael Ogundele, Ph.D.

Olalekan Michael Ogundele, Ph.D., associate professor of anatomy and systems neuroscience in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, has received a significant grant of $1,826,550 from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The grant aims to support Dr. Ogundele's research, which focuses on understanding how our brain circuits work when we encounter positive or negative things in our environment and how these experiences influence our behavior.

The research will investigate how our brain processes information, particularly when it comes to learning and memory. Dr. Ogundele's team will use advanced techniques to record neural activity in different areas of the brain simultaneously. They are particularly interested in studying the connection between two crucial brain regions: the hippocampus (associated with memory) and the ventral tegmental area (associated with detecting reward or punishment).

The project will help us better understand how our brains prioritize and store memories based on whether an experience was positive or negative. The unique techniques used in the research allow the team to monitor the activity of hundreds of neurons in these brain regions over several months. This extended observation period will help researchers see how animals learn to recognize positive and negative environmental cues and adapt to them over time.

Dr. Ogundele's team is also using genetic tools to map and isolate specific neural pathways related to neurotransmitters. This will help them understand the role of these pathways in assigning value to experiences and adapting to them. The ultimate goal is to use these insights as a foundation for developing targeted interventions for neurological disorders, such as schizophrenia and autism, which exhibit abnormal responses to habituation.

In simpler terms, Dr. Ogundele's research is like decoding how our brain processes and remembers experiences, especially those with positive or negative emotions attached. The advanced tools used in this study provide a unique window into the intricate workings of our brain, offering potential insights that could benefit individuals with neurological disorders.

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