Ph.D., Brandeis University, 2002
|My lab studies the neurobiological principles underlying cognition and decision-making. Using state-of-the-art technologies, we interrogate neural circuits in rodents as they perform a task. We validate our findings with analogous tasks in humans. We hope to define the neural circuits underlying decisions that will inform the development of new therapies for psychiatric diseases.|
Adam Kepecs and colleagues are interested in identifying the neurobiological principles underlying cognition and decision-making. They use a reductionist approach, distilling behavioral questions to quantitative behavioral tasks for rats and mice that enable the monitoring and manipulation of neural circuits supporting behavior. Using state-of-the-art electrophysiological techniques, they first seek to establish the neural correlates of behavior and then use molecular and optogenetic manipulations to systematically dissect the underlying neural circuits. Given the complexity of animal behavior and the dynamics of neural networks that produce it, their studies require quantitative analysis and make regular use of computational models. The team also has begun to incorporate human psychophysics to validate its behavioral observations in rodents by linking them with analogous behaviors in human subjects. Currently, the team’s research encompasses study of (1) neural basis of decision confidence, (2) the division of labor among cell types in prefrontal cortex, (3) how the cholinergic system supports learning and attention, and (4) social decisions that rely on stereotyped circuits. A unifying theme is the use of precisely timed cell-type and pathway-specific perturbations to effect gain- and loss-of-function for specific behavioral abilities. This year, the Kepecs lab was able to link foraging decisions—the choice between staying or going—to a neural circuit and specific cell types in the prefrontal cortex. In other work, they identified a class of inhibitory neurons that specializes in inhibiting other inhibitory neurons in the cerebral cortex and conveys information about rewards and punishment. Through manipulations of genetically and anatomically defined neuronal elements, the team hopes to identify fundamental principles of neural circuit function that will be useful for developing therapies for diseases such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism spectrum disorder.
Lak, A., Costa, G.M., Romberg, E., Koulakov A.A., Mainen, Z.F. and Kepecs, A. 2014. Orbitofrontal cortex is required for behavioral report of perceptual decision confidence. Neuron. 84:190-201.
Kepecs A. & Fishell, G. 2014. Interneuron cell types are fit to function. Nature. 505:318-26.
Pi, H.J., Hangya, B., Kvitsiani, D., Sanders, J.I., Huang, Z. J. & Kepecs A. 2013. Cortical interneurons that specialize in disinhibitory control. Nature. 503:521–524.
Kvitsiani, D., Ranade, S., Hangya, B., Tanaguchi, H., Huang, J.Z., and Kepecs, A. 2013. Distinct behavioural and network correlates of two interneuron types in prefrontal cortex. Nature. 498: 363–366.
Ranade, S., Hangya, B., and Kepecs, A. 2013. Multiple modes of phase locking between sniffing and whisking during active exploration. J. Neurosci. 33:8250–8256.
Kepecs, A., Uchida, N., Zariwala, H.A. and Mainen, Z.F. 2008. Neural correlates, computation and behavioural impact of decision confidence. Nature. 455:227–231.
CSHL neuroscientists identify class of cortical inhibitory neurons that specialize in disinhibition
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McKnight Memory & Cognitive Disorders Award