Basal forebrain (BF), a key cortically-projecting neuromodulatory system, has emerged as an increasingly important topic in recent years for its role in cognitive functions. While studies of the BF have traditionally focused on its cholinergic neurons, noncholinergic BF neurons are anatomically more prominent yet functionally poorly understood, and represent an unexplored area of research with lots of potential. Recent studies from my lab are the first to highlight the important role of a specific group of noncholinergic BF neurons as a key neural mechanism in attention and reward-based decision making.
Our laboratory combines multiple experimental approaches, including neuronal ensemble recording in behaving rats and mice, as well as behavioral, computational and optogenetic techniques. Current research focuses on understanding these noncholinergic BF neurons in terms of their inputs, their identity, their outputs, and eventually their influences on behavioral performance. Our ultimate goal is to develop therapeutic interventions that can alleviate impairments in attention control in conditions such as aging, schizophrenia and ADHD.