Behavioral, biochemical, and physiological analysis of learning and memory.
Dr. Thiels' main research interest is how animals acquire information from the environment and use that information to guide their behavior. Understanding of the biological substrates of learning and memory is one of the most sought-after goals of neuroscience because of the universality of these cognitive faculties and their utmost importance for survival in a variable environment. Growing evidence indicates that learning and memory involve specific neural circuits and, within these circuits, specific physiological, biochemical, and molecular processes. Likely neurophysiological substrates of learning and memory include experience-induced changes in the strength of synaptic communication. Dr. Thiels' laboratory studies experience-dependent bidirectional synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, a structure in the medial temporal lobes critical for the acquisition and storage of episodic and factual memories. Another, recently initiated line of study in the laboratory focuses on experience-dependent alterations of function in brain circuits implicated in reward learning and drug addiction. This work is aimed at advancing our understanding of cue-induced drug craving and relapse. The experimental approaches applied in Dr. Thiels’ laboratory provide trainees with the opportunity to learn in vivo electrophysiological, pharmacological, biochemical, and behavior analysis techniques.
Comparison of behavioral effects of the NMDA receptor channel blockers memantine and ketamine in rats.
Kotermanski, S.E., Johnson, J.W., and Thiels, E. (2013).
Pharm. Biochem. Behav. 109: 67-76.
Stimulus-specific and differential distribution of activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase in the nucleus accumbens core and shell during Pavlovian-instrumental transfer. Remus, M.L., and Thiels, E. (2013). Brain Struc.& Funct. 218: 913-27.
Protein phosphatases 1 and 2A are both required for long-term depression and associated dephosphorylation of cAMP response element binding protein in hippocampal area CA1 in vivo. Mauna JC, Miyamae T, Pulli B, Thiels E. Hippocampus. 2011 Oct;21(10):1093-104. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20823.
LTP- and LTD-inducing stimulations cause opposite changes in arc/arg3.1 mRNA level in hippocampal area CA1 in vivo. Yilmaz-Rastoder E, Miyamae T, Braun AE, Thiels E. Hippocampus. 2011 Dec;21(12):1290-301. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20838.
Critical involvement of postsynaptic protein kinase activation in long-term potentiation at hippocampal mossy fiber synapses on CA3 interneurons. Galván EJ, Cosgrove KE, Mauna JC, Card JP, Thiels E, Meriney SD, Barrionuevo G. J Neurosci. 2010 Feb 24;30(8):2844-55.
Appetitive Pavlovian conditioned stimuli increase CREB phosphorylation in the nucleus accumbens. Shiflett MW, Mauna JC, Chipman AM, Peet E, and Thiels E. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2009 Oct;92(3):451-4.
Cue-elicited reward-seeking requires ERK activation in the nucleus accumbens. Shiflett MW, Martini RP, Mauna JC, Foster RL, Peet E, Thiels E. J Neurosci. 2008 Feb 6;28(6):1434-43.