Research Fellows Directory
Dr Laura Molina-Garcia
University College London
Learning is a universal property of all nervous systems, through which animals change behaviour based on previous experiences. These changes in behaviour result from changes in the way neurons communicate with each other within neural circuits.
Our goal is to determine how and what properties of neuronal communication are changed and the molecules involved. We are using the nematode C. elegans because of its very well described and small nervous system that can be genetically manipulated, allowing high-resolution analysis of this process.
In particular, the project aims to elucidate how conflicting experiences (aversive and rewarding) are integrated by the nervous system during learning. Classically, associative learning has been studied by means of pairing one stimulus with an experience that is either aversive or rewarding. However, stimuli are often encountered during events that are both rewarding and aversive simultaneously and our brain is able to integrate them and generate a behavioural response. How this process occurs at the level of neural circuit activity is still unclear. As the mechanisms of neuronal communication are conserved across animals, our findings will illuminate how integration of conflicting experiences during learning occurs in higher organisms, including humans.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)