Bita Moghaddam - Translation of anxiety into actions by prefrontal cortex and dopamine neurons

Event Details:

Thursday, May 11, 2023
This Event Has Passed
12:00pm to 1:00pm PDT
Event Sponsor
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Add to calendar:

Join us at Gunn Rotunda in the Stanford Neurosciences Building to learn about the latest cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary brain research, from biochemistry to behavior and beyond

Wu Tsai Neuro's weekly seminar series is back to being held in-person since Fall 2022. Masking is strongly encouraged for the health and safety of our community Join the speaker for coffee, cookies, and conversation after the talk

Translation of anxiety into actions by prefrontal cortex and dopamine neurons


Anxiety is a debilitating symptom of most psychiatric illnesses. Treatment of anxiety is mostly limited to benzodiazepines, which have abuse potential and produce multiple side effects including increased propensity to develop dementia. Design of alternative treatments is contingent upon a better understanding of the neuronal basis of anxiety. A large body of studies has informed us about the neuronal representation of fear and anxiety as stand-alone constructs in rodents. But in the context of real-life anxiety, the negative impacts extend beyond aversive feelings and involve disruptions in ongoing cognitive and affective behaviors. For example, anxiety disrupts flexible cognitive control of behavior and expression of reward-related behaviors. To begin to address neuronal basis of these behavioral deficits, we have recently designed and validated novel rodent behavioral paradigms in which expression of reward-guided actions is modulated by varying levels of anxiety induced by the risk of punishment. These approaches are allowing us to assess the circuitry and pattern of neuronal engagement during “learning” of anxiety, neural computation of behavioral events after learning, and how drugs such as diazepam or psilocybin influence these events.  I will focus on data showing that anxiety diminishes the recruitment of action encoding neurons in the prefrontal cortex and dopamine neurons, and influences the coordinated activity between these two regions. These data provide mechanistic insight for how anxiety and anti-anxiety treatments influence reward-guided behavior and suggest that coordinated encoding of actions, as opposed to cues or reward, by PFC and dopamine neurons is particularly vulnerable to anxiety.

Bita Moghaddam

Oregon Health and Science University

(Visit lab website)

Bita Moghaddam is the Ruth Matarazzo Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). She received a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Kansas followed by postdoctoral training in pharmacology at Yale University. She joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobiology at Yale University in 1990 where she quickly rose to the rank of full professor. In 2003 she moved to the University of Pittsburgh as Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry. She joined OHSU in 2017. Her research focuses on understanding the neuronal basis of complex behaviors that are critical to mental health, and is distinguished by the substantial impact on the field (H-index 80). Her work has led to the discovery of the first non-monoamine targeting compound (targeting metabotropic glutamate receptors) for treatment of schizophrenia and potential mechanisms to explain the antidepressant effects of ketamine. Her research has been funded continuously since 1991, including a MERIT award from the National Institute of Mental Health. She has been an active educator and mentor throughout her scientific career. She is an elected fellow of American College of Neuropscyhopharmacology and the recipient of several prestigious research awards, including the Efron award for excellence in research related to neuropsychopharmacology and the Paul Jansen Award for excellence in schizophrenia research. She has served on numerous editorial and advisory boards as well as national and local educational and service-oriented committees. 

Hosted by - Leili Mortazavi

About the Wu Tsai Neuro Seminar Series

The Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute seminar series brings together the Stanford neuroscience community to discuss cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary brain research, from biochemistry to behavior and beyond.

Topics include new discoveries in fundamental neurobiology; advances in human and translational neuroscience; insights from computational and theoretical neuroscience; and the development of novel research technologies and neuro-engineering breakthroughs.

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held Thursdays at 12:00 noon PT.

Sign up to learn about all our upcoming events