Theses Doctoral

Serotonin Input to the Medial Prefrontal Cortex Promotes Behavioral Flexibility

Morgan, Ashlea Ariel

In this study, I investigate how serotonergic modulation of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) affects neuronal activity and impacts cognitive flexibility, anxiety, and fear extinction (Figure 1). I begin in Chapter 1 with general information on the PFC with a focus on the mPFC, then discuss the role and complexity of serotonin and how manipulation of serotonin affects behavior. I, finally, introduce what is understood about how serotonin modulates the mPFC, the significance of which has implications for cognitive and emotional behaviors.

In Chapter 2, I studied the role of serotonin in cognitive flexibility. Specifically, I used retrograde tracing to determine the origin of mPFC and assessed how terminal release of 5-HT affects mPFC pyramidal neuron activity using whole-cell electrophysiology in acute brain slices. Furthermore, through in vivo fiber photometry, I evaluated the activity of 5-HTergic neurons projecting to the mPFC during cognitive flexibility behavior. Lastly, by selectively increasing or decreasing mPFC 5-HTergic terminal release through in vivo optogenetics, I assessed the modulatory role of 5-HTergic input into the mPFC on intradimensional rule reversal and extradimensional rule shift performance in the cognitive flexibility task.

Furthermore, I evaluated the activity of 5-HTergic neurons projecting to the mPFC during an open field task using in vivo fiber photometry and, in Chapter 3, used in vivo optogenetics to determine the role 5-HT in the mPFC plays in modulating fear-related behavior. In Chapter 4, I examined a pharmacological screen of a psychedelic drug in the cognitive flexibility task outlined in Chapter 2. I conclude in Chapter 5 with a discussion of the study implications and future directions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Neurobiology and Behavior
Thesis Advisors
Ansorge, Mark
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 12, 2022