Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Lexi Zhou L&S Sciences

Dopamine Modulation of Striatal Pathways in Choice Rejection

The Striatum plays a critical role in decision making and action outcome evaluation. It is primarily composed of two distinct pathwaysdirect and indirect that receive excitatory inputs from the cortex and the thalamus and are differentially modulated by dopamine signals from the midbrain. There has been a wealth of experimental and theoretical work on how the dichotomy of these striatal pathways mediates choice selection. The classic go/no-go model proposes that these pathways play discrete roles in choice selection, with the direct pathway fires to select a rewarding option and the indirect pathway fires to reject the rest. However, predictions made by this model are at odds with empirical findings. More recent studies show that these striatal pathways encode opposite value variables and are co-activated during choice selection, suggesting that they play opponent rather than independent roles in choice rejection. Using a serial decision-making task that isolates choice rejection and selection, my project leverages the lateralized nature of the striatum to experimentally demonstrate this new model. I will be looking at the relative activities of these striatal pathways in both hemispheres to test how they coordinate to generate decisions. I will also record the corresponding dopamine dynamics to see if it relates to the values of opposite choices and how it modulates the striatal pathways to regulate choice selection.

Message To Sponsor

I would like to thank the SURF program and the Pergo Fund for making this amazing summer possible. I was able to dedicate myself full-time to doing something I am really passionate about and build data analysis skills that would greatly benefit my future research. My experience this summer helped me grow as a scientist and cultivated my confidence in my own abilities. My summer with the SURF program is one of my most valuable undergraduate experiences, and I am excited to continue to pursue my passion for neuroscience.
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Major: Cognitive Science and Molecular and Cell Biology, Neurobiology
Mentor: Linda Wilbrecht
Sponsor: Pergo Fund
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