Research Areas

Example of a memory cell in the human hippocampus.

Work in the Rutishauser Laboratory focuses on several key areas of interest.

Learning and Memory

Researchers in the Rutishauser Lab are studying the mechanisms of declarative memory formation and retrieval, with a particular focus on single-trial learning and rapid plasticity. Key interests include the role of the theta rhythm, single-neuron representations of memory strength, the role of the substantia nigra in declarative memory formation, and the role of abnormal plasticity in the striatum in dystonia. Previous work includes the identification of novelty-signaling neurons in the human hippocampus and amygdala of epilepsy patients that express single-trial learning and the description of the relationship between theta-frequency phase locking of human hippocampal neurons during learning and later memory strength.

Social Cognition

The lab is studying the mechanisms of social cognition by examining the processes by which faces are processed, identified and remembered.  Our focus is the amygdala, and includes both basic mechanisms such as representation of facial features by single neurons as well as impairment thereof by diseases such as autism. We have reported the first study of autism at the single-neuron level in autism.

Decision Making

The choices people make often rely on both sensory inputs (such as faces) as well as memories. The Rutishauser Lab is investigating how people make complex decisions, and in particular, how complex decisions are informed by facial features, emotions and memories. A key feature of decisions that we are interested in is confidence judgments and errors. Both are crucial for behavior in complex environments, where rewards and punishments are infrequent or only occur much later. We are thus investigating how such internally generated processes drive decisions and learning and how these processes are impaired in Parkinson’s disease and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Methods Development

The lab is active in the development of new methods and tools, in particular as it pertains to microelectrodes for humans, stimulation techniques, algorithms for signal processing, closed-loop real-time processing of spikes, spike sorting, spike train analysis and statistical methods. The Rutishauser Laboratory is actively developing and maintaining the widely used open-source spike sorting toolbox OSort and the closed-loop software StimOMatic.

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