Dept. of Psychology
Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience
office: BSB 1042A
1007 W Harrison St. MC 285
Chicago, IL 60607
1992, Pennsylvania State University, Psychology, B.S.
2002, University of Washington, Neurobiology & Behavior, Ph.D.
Welcome to the Roitman Lab in Decision Neuroscience. We are interested in how decisions are formed by neural circuits that process sensory information, weigh previous knowledge and biases, and ultimately direct action. Current projects in our lab include:
Failure to stop ourselves from engaging in behaviors that are immediately rewarding- such as smoking, overeating, or spending- can lead to outcomes that are harmful to our health, finances, and relationships. We are interested in understanding how fronto-striatal circuitry controls successful restraint of approach behaviors, as well as failures of restraint. We use a combination of in vivo electrophysiology, local inactivation of neural structures, voltammetry, and pharmacology to elucidate the role of prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens in animals engaged in tasks in which they have to direct approach behavior, as well as withhold it, to earn rewards.
Many decisions involve some element of risk. We are interested in how patterns of activity in the prefrontal cortex and its interconnected structures underlie a preference to choose uncertain outcomes. This circuitry continues to develop through late adolescence, a period marked by an increase in risky choices. We are interested in how substances commonly used in adolescence - alcohol, psychostimulants - may lead to long-term alterations in the activity of prefrontal neurons and the subsequent bias towards risk-preference. We measure how the preference for large, risky food rewards, relative to small, certain ones, is affected by the probability of receiving a payoff in both adolescent and adult animals. Following a period of substance or alcohol use during adolescence, we examine the long-term impact of alcohol intake on risk-preference in adulthood and on the neural activity that encodes how risky rewards are evaluated in prefrontal cortex.