WP 4: Müller

Dr. Iris Müller (University of Magdeburg, Faculty for Natural Sciences)

GABAergic and dopaminergic interaction in cognitive flexibility


Dr. Iris Müller

University of Magdeburg, Faculty of Natural Sciences

    Gamma-amino butyric acid utilizing (GABAergic) interneurons control regional excitability, information flow and plasticity, as well as the generation of specific network activity patterns in the frontal cortex and associated brain regions. The GABAergic system consists of heterogeneous subclasses, differing in morphology, expression of neuropeptides and electrophysiological properties. For example, somatostatin- and parvalbumin expressing cells target preferentially dendrites and somata of pyramidal neurons, respectively, and thereby control information input and output.

    In this project, we investigate how the function of different subpopulations of these GABAergic interneurons are modulated through dopamine during cognitive information processing, and how these cells contribute to cognitive flexibility and executive functions.

    To this end, we examine the use and effectiveness of different learning strategies as well as the ability for reversal learning, decision-making and strategy shifting in mice. Appetitive and aversive learning tasks are used which require different levels of cognitive processing and interaction of particular frontal cortex regions with the hippocampus, striatum and amygdala. Using molecular markers and high-resolution gene expression analysis we will investigate the regional activation patterns and adaptive molecular changes in GABAergic interneurons that are induced by these tasks. Based on these findings, we will target relevant subpopulations with transgenic and pharmacogenetic tools to control their activity and responsiveness to dopaminergic modulation. We thus expect to identify GABAergic interneurons that mediate the dopaminergic control of cognitive functions and adaptive behaviour.