Julia Lemos is an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and member of the University's Medical Discovery Team on Addiction. Her laboratory investigates how stress is processed and encoded in the brain. In particular, they interested in understanding how stress-associated neuropeptides regulate the function of neural circuits important for motivation and emotion in individuals with different life histories. Her laboratory also works to understand how chronic or traumatic stress renders the brain vulnerable to disease states such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.
Intuitively we know that stress can influence our decision-making process; this is part of our daily lives. While responding to acute stressors appropriately allows us to make good decisions, chronic or severe stress can lead to bad decision-making. These processes can be observed across many species, from rodents to humans. In humans, this switch in how we make choices following chronic stress can make an individual vulnerable to diseases like addiction or depression. Despite compelling motivations to study the influence of stress on decision-making, the neurobiology of how acute or chronic stress alters decision-making remains largely unexplored. To answer these questions, my laboratory uses a multi-disciplinary approach in which we pair conventional physiological and behavioral techniques with novel transgenic and optogenetic technology in mice. We use the information obtained from our ex vivo experiments to make predictions about the impact of stress and stress-associated on exploration, reward learning and decision-making behavior. Moreover, we can put our ex vivo observations to task by testing the causal relationship between our cellular and circuit findings and behavioral output. We often see how a life history of chronic or severe stress impacts normal functioning to shift behavioral outputs. Using this paradigm, we can then test whether different therapeutic interventions can reverse the impact of chronic stress on exploration and decision-making behaviors.
Minneapolis, MN 55455-3007