Neuromodulation and the Balance between Goal-Directed and Reactive Behavior

Speaker: Melissa Warden


Striking an adaptive balance between persistently pursuing goals and reacting quickly to important environmental events is essential for survival. Here, I will discuss the role of neuromodulation in regulating this balance, and will describe our recent work on this topic using optical methods for monitoring and controlling the activity of serotonin and dopamine neurons in freely behaving mice. First, I will present evidence that phasic activity in dorsal raphe serotonin neurons promotes a fast, state-dependent behavioral/emotional reaction, and will discuss the implications of this finding for the therapeutic efficacy of drugs that target the serotonin system. Then, I will present evidence that progressively rising activity in dopamine neurons during approach to rewards signifies the use of an internal model of progress toward a goal.

About the speaker:

Melissa Warden is an Assistant Professor and Miriam M. Salpeter Fellow in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University, and is a member of the Cornell Neurotech Advisory Group and the Biomedical Engineering and Psychology graduate fields. She received an A.B. in Molecular Biology from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Systems Neuroscience from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she investigated prefrontal neuronal encoding of multi-item short-term memory with Earl K. Miller. As a postdoctoral fellow with Karl Deisseroth at Stanford University she studied cortical control of neuromodulatory systems in motivated behavior. Her research at Cornell integrates imaging, neurophysiological, and cellular and molecular approaches to study the neural circuits mediating reward and motivated behavior and their dysfunction.

Time and place:

May 11, 2021, 3:00 p.m. CEST

The talk will be held online. Please access the talk via

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