Ben Jerry Gonzales
Ben is passionate about discovering how circuit-level rules are formed in the brain to define the identity of the ‘truths’ we hold and the degree of belief we ascribe to them.
In his PhD Ben studied the development of repetitive action patterns, and their escalation to form pathological states of compulsion and drug addiction induced by cocaine exposure. He tackled this challenge through molecular characterization of striatal sub populations, calcium photometry recordings, and optogenetic & chemogenetic manipulations in combination with machine learning driven automated behavioral categorization in freely moving mice.
Integrating sensory evidence to make informed decisions is critical to optimal fitness in changing environments. Studies suggest that sensory and frontal areas of the cortex inform choices through downstream brain-wide pathways. However, the functional contribution of these pathways is unknown and challenging to address due to the distributed nature of the underlying circuitry. In his postdoctoral research Ben is interested in testing the idea that distinct domains in the cerebral cortex cooperate to drive subcortical mediated triggering of action based on incoming sensory evidence and prior experience.