Plexon Research Spotlight

Plexon Research Spotlight - Daniel Gabriel

Ph.D. Student, Simon Lab, University of Memphis


What type of neuroscience research do you do and what got you interested in this research?

My research as a behavioral neuroscientist focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms underlying risky decision-making, with an emphasis on how excessive risk-taking causes vulnerability to substance use. Individual differences of both biology and behavior have always interested me, especially questions along the lines of “Why do not all smokers develop cancer or all drug users develop addictions?” Delineating the neurobiological mechanisms underlying risky behaviors is a crucial step in answering these questions and developing new preventative and therapeutic measures.

What challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?

Working with my mentor, Dr. Nicholas Simon, to build a functional and productive lab from the ground up, the biggest challenge I’ve faced has been learning to deal with the unexpected. The most notable of these came in refining new behavioral paradigms for use with electrophysiology and troubleshooting problems arising with our electrophysiology rig. Learning to approach problems with defined intention and focus has been the most useful in effectively navigating these sorts of surprise complications. The Plexon staff was extremely helpful and flexible throughout this process, providing expert suggestions for determining the best configuration of commutator and headstage cable to complement our style of microwire array and behavioral task demands.

What new technique do you think will have the greatest impact on Neuroscience research and how do you plan to apply this to your research?

I think advances in machine learning in conjunction with the increasing specificity of optogenetic manipulations and in vivo electrophysiological recordings are going to provide more comprehensive understandings of how the brain guides behavior. Our lab is currently collaborating with a machine learning specialist to develop the fullest understanding of the neural bases of behavior that we can.

Did you integrate multiple techniques into your research? Such as electrophysiology and optogenetics. If so, can you describe the types of studies you used this integration for?

My research currently centers on in vivo electrophysiology and we are preparing to implement optogenetics. For the next step in my research, I plan to use optrodes for simultaneous neuronal recording and manipulation during behavior and to apply techniques I learn from current collaborations with machine learning specialists to develop deeper understandings of the neurobiological underpinnings of behavior.

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