Michelle Zhang

Causal Role of the dmPFC in Goal-Directed Behavior

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays an important part in purposeful, goal-directed behavior through the representation and maintenance of internal goals. In particular, the PFC has been implicated in post-error correction, an important aspect of adaptive cognitive control whereby animals perform better immediately after punishment than after reward. However, the contributions of the PFC to this phenomenon on a trial-by-trial basis are still unclear. Our hypotheses are that the PFC affects overall performance because of its contribution to stimulus-based decision-making and that outcome responses in the PFC underlie the phenomenon of post-error correction. My project will use optogenetics to test whether PFC activity underlies individual components of goal-directed behavior, and our results will be an important contribution to understanding the functions of the PFC.

Message to Sponsor

I am excited to be a 2015 SURF/Rose Hills Independent Fellow and am looking forward to dedicating my summer to studying the prefrontal cortex. This incredible summer experience will allow me to make significant progress on my honors thesis as well as engage with many brilliant researchers on campus. Im extremely grateful for the support of the Rose Hills Foundation and my mentors Lucas Pinto and Yang Dan. Thank you!
  • Major: Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills
  • Mentor: Yang Dan, Molecular and Cell Biology