art with Processing

Our research focuses on the role of the cortical-basal-ganglia system in motor function and learning. We use electrophysiology, calcium imaging and neuromodulation techniques (pharmacology, electrical stimulation and optogenetics) in rodents during trained behavior. We also use computational models to study the brain circuits and functions in normal or diseased states.


Reward-regulated motor learning. Animals and humans adapt dynamically to the reward structure in the environment. The linkage between reward and the behavior is little known, and its neural mechanisms are not fully understood. We monitor neural population activity in nodes of the cortico-basal-ganglia system in mice. We investigate how signals related to reward are transformed throughout the neural circuits and used for shaping behavior.

Roles of distinct dopaminergic pathways on learning and motor behavior. Dopaminergic neuromodulation in the basal ganglia system has been implicated in reward-based regulation of behavior and learning. It has been hypothesized that differential activations of two anatomically distinct dopaminergic pathways in striatum, namely striatonigral direct and striatopallidal indirect pathways, exert opposing effects in, e.g. reward vs. punishment, Go vs. No-Go or motivation vs. demotivation. However, how the activation of these two pathways specifically contributes to these processes have not been well understood. To address these issues, we use optogenetics, electrophysiology and calcium imaging in mice learning an odor-based Go/No-Go task.

Investigation of the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease (PD) in seeking of a better therapy. Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder with severe motor deficits. The disease is associated with the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, and accompanying with abnormalities in neural activity in cortico-basal-ganglia system, such as enhanced beta band activity and bursty spiking. Albeit limited understandings of the pathophysiology and mechanism of treatment in PD, deep brain stimulation is currently the most effective treatment for advanced PD. We use optogenetics, two-photon imaging and deep brain stimulation in 6-OHDA-based Parkinsonian mice to investigate the link between disrupted neural activity and disease symptoms, and identify targets for therapy.



Ilker Ozden
Assistant Professer

Jing Wang
Research Scientist

Paige L. Martinez
Graduate Student

Apaala Basak
Graduate Student

Hayden B. Smith
Undergraduate Student

Hamza Iqbal
Undergraduate Student


Olivia K. Botonis
Undergraduate Student, Class of 2019

Badr Almadi
MS, Class of 2019

Taha Khan
MS, Class of 2019


List of Publications




Email // +1(573) 884-3686 // Rm 122, AgEng Building, 1406 Rollins St. Columbia MO 65211

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