Georgia Tech Neuro Seminar Series

"Investigating the Circuit Mechanisms Underlying Active Avoidance Behavior”  

Registration link coming soon!

Mario Penzo, Ph.D. 
National Institute of Mental Health 

Mario Penzo is a tenure-track investigator in the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He received his Ph.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and completed his postdoctoral training at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. His group at NIMH investigates the molecular, cellular, and neural circuit mechanisms underlying emotional and motivational processes. Specifically, they are investigating how emotional signals are represented in the brain to yield specific effects on behavior, physiology, and cognition. Current efforts are centered on the contributions of the midline thalamus to these processes.

Fear learning is associated with the expression of defensive behaviors upon fear memory retrieval. In rodents, these behaviors range from reactions such as freezing, to instrumental responses like active avoidance. Notably, while decades of research on Pavlovian conditioning have yielded profound knowledge of the brain mechanisms that regulate conditioned freezing behavior, the processes that shape active avoidance behavior are far less understood. During my presentation, I will discuss recent work from our group demonstrating that the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (PVT) – a midline thalamic structure previously linked to fear processing – is critical for the expression of active avoidance behavior. Currently, we are investigating how cortical and subcortical inputs to the PVT regulate avoidance behavior.