Motivated behaviors fall into two valences: Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The ability to select appropriate behavioral responses to environmental stimuli, such as avoiding a predator or approaching a food source, is critical for survival. Although most animals are capable of learning to assign either positive or negative associations to environmental cues, we are only beginning to understand the underlying neural circuits and the plasticity that mediates the formation, revision or extinction of an associative memory.
How is emotional or motivational significance assigned to environmental cues?
Where do the circuits processing associative information diverge to differentially encode positive and negative valence?
When there are perturbations in the neural circuits mediating reward processing, fear, motivation, memory or inhibitory control, we may observe a number of disease states such as substance abuse, attention-deficit disorder, anxiety and depression. These are among the most prevalent neuro-psychiatric disorders, and show a high rate of co-morbidity with each other, as patients diagnosed with anxiety or mood disorders are approximately twice as likely to develop a substance abuse disorder.
Do perturbations in common neural circuits processing motivation, memory or affective valence underlie this high-rate of co-morbidity? Can emotional states such as increased anxiety alter a given experience and increase the propensity for substance abuse by facilitating long-term changes associated with reward-related learning? If so, what is the mechanism?
The Tye lab employs an interdisciplinary approach including optogenetics, electrophysiology, pharmacology and imaging techniques to find a mechanistic explanation for how emotional and motivational states can influence learning and behavior, in both health and disease. In addition to scientific excellence and integrity, top values of the Tye Laboratory include mentorship, collaboration, innovation and above all, a positive mental attitude.
Kay Tye completed her undergraduate studies at MIT in 2003, majoring in Brain and Cognitive Sciences with a minor in Biology. She went to the University of California at San Francisco for her graduate studies under the mentorship of Patricia Janak to train in in vivo electrophysiology and behavioral neuroscience, and earned her PhD in 2008. Her thesis work was supported by a National Science Foundation Fellowship and was recognized with the Weintraub Award and the Lindsley Prize. She then stayed on for an extra year to complete a collaboration examining learning-induced plasticity using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in acute slice preparations with Antonello Bonci. She then began her post-doctoral training at Stanford University in 2009 with the support of a National Research Service Award from the National Institute of Health under the mentorship of Karl Deisseroth, where she integrated her existing skill set with imaging and optogenetic techniques to examine the basis of motivated behaviors. She will now be returning to MIT to start her own lab as an assistant professor in Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Picower Institute of Learning and Memory in January 2012.
Tye KM, Deisseroth K. Optogenetic investigation of neural circuits underlying brain disease in animal models. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2012 Mar 20;13(4):251-66.
Tye KM, Prakash R, Kim SY, Fenno LE, Grosenick L, Zarabi H, Thompson KR, Gradinaru V, Ramakrishnan C, Deisseroth K. Amygdala circuitry mediating reversible and bidirectional control of anxiety. Nature. 2011 Mar 17;471(7338):358-62.
Tye KM, Tye LD, Cone JJ, Hekkelman EF, Janak PH, Bonci A. Methylphenidate facilitates learning-induced amygdala plasticity. Nat Neurosci. 2010 Apr;13(4):475-81.
Tye KM, Cone JJ, Schairer WW, Janak PH. Amygdala neural encoding of the absence of reward during extinction. J Neurosci. 2010 Jan 6;30(1):116-25.
Tye KM, Stuber GD, de Ridder B, Bonci A, Janak PH. Rapid strengthening of thalamo-amygdala synapses mediates cue-reward learning. Nature. 2008 Jun 26;453(7199):1253-7.
Tye KM, Janak PH. Amygdala neurons differentially encode motivation and reinforcement. J Neurosci. 2007 Apr 11;27(15):3937-45.
Society for Neuroscience Chapters Graduate Student Award
Bay Area Neuroscience Gathering, Best Student or Post-Doctoral Abstract
Keystone Symposia on the Neurobiology of Addiction Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow
Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award (Outstanding Achievement in Biosciences)
Donald B. Lindsley Prize (Most Outstanding Ph.D. Thesis in Behavioral Neuroscience)
European Brain and Behavior Society Post-Doctoral Fellow Award
National Research Service Award Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Stanford University Post-Doctoral Award (Best Bioengineering Post-Doctoral Research)
Winter Brain Travel Award Jeptha H. and Emily V. Wade Fund Award
American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Travel Award
Kavli Frontiers Fellow
Whitehall Foundation Research Award