How does sensory experience guide our behavior? How can the way we process sensory information change throughout life and be shaped by our prior experiences?
These are the fundamental questions that drive my research. I am interested in how sensory processing occurs in the brain, and how sensory information influences behavioral output such as reward-driven responses. I have used both monkeys and mice in a variety of projects to work toward answering these questions in the auditory, visual, and olfactory systems. My prior training in both biological and psychological perspectives allows me to connect my research on monkeys and mice with similar human-based mechanisms, helping to shed light on how human consciousness is shaped by sensory experience.
As a Ph.D. student, I am exploring these questions using a variety of approaches. My current research focuses on the neural properties that allow the brain to encode multiple simultaneous auditory stimuli. Rotating in the laboratory of Dr. Jennifer Groh at Duke University, I use computational and behavioral techniques to study how neurons in monkeys efficiently encode either one or two sounds. Previously, I rotated in the laboratory of Dr. Lindsey Glickfeld, where I studied experience-dependent plasticity in the mouse visual system. I conducted two-photon imaging to measure how visually-responsive neurons change their responses to bars with varying orientations and contrasts at specific benchmarks while mice learn a change detection task.
Before entering graduate school at Duke, I worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the laboratory of Dr. Sandra Kuhlman at Carnegie Mellon University, studying experience-dependent visual plasticity in mice using behavioral, optical, and computational techniques. Prior to this, I briefly worked in the laboratory of Dr. Nathan Urban at Carnegie Mellon University (now at the University of Pittsburgh), studying how olfaction guides navigational behavior in mice. My undergraduate experience has been invaluable as I work to expand my understanding of sensory processing and behavior during graduate school.
- Feese, B.D., Pafundo, D.E., Schmehl, M.N., and Kuhlman, S.J. (2017). Binocular deprivation induces both age-dependent and age-independent forms of plasticity in parvalbumin inhibitory neuron visual response properties. Journal of Neurophysiology, 119(2), 738-751. (PMID: 29118195)