The Fioravante laboratory investigates how foundational neural primitives including stimulus value (valence), acquired strength (salience) and prediction are computed by mammalian microcircuits to support learned behavior. We focus on the cerebellum, the brain’s “prediction machine”, the non-motor functions of which lack mechanistic understanding. We dissect long-range cerebellar circuits that signal to the prefrontal cortex, the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala and dissect their role in cognition, affect and reinforcement learning.
By dissecting the operating principles of novel cerebello-limbic circuits and their synaptic and molecular elements, we shed light on their functionality and aspire to explain how their perturbations contribute to brain disorders. Our research has the potential to revise long-held views on how emotion- and reward-relevant operations are modulated in the mammalian brain and has implications for anxiety, PTSD, addiction and autism spectrum disorders.
Our toolbox includes transgenic mice, optogenetics, ex vivo patch-clamp and in vivo large-scale electrophysiology, calcium imaging, Patch-seq and animal behavior assays. With these tools at hand, we aim to bridge the knowledge gap between synaptic, cellular and circuit levels of analysis.