Dr. Amy Griffin was recently awarded a $375K R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study working memory performance.
A common way for brain regions to communicate is through the synchronization of brain rhythms known as oscillations. This oscillatory synchrony is extremely important for cognitive processes, including the ability to briefly hold information online in order to perform a task – an ability known as working memory. A rich body of experimental evidence has shown that oscillatory synchrony in one particular brain circuit that includes the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex is critical for working memory; individuals with damage in this circuit have working memory deficits. Our lab is interested in asking the question of whether enhancing oscillatory synchrony in the hippocampal-prefrontal circuit can enhance working memory performance. We will tackle this question by allowing rats to perform a working memory task only when hippocampal-prefrontal synchrony is strong. We will then use state-of-the-art optogenetic stimulation techniques to directly increase hippocampal-prefrontal synchrony. In both cases, we predict that working memory performance will be enhanced. Our hope is that our approach can be used in future work to rescue cognitive deficits in both animal models of neuropsychiatric disorders and patient populations.