The Burwell laboratory is dedicated to understanding the structure and function of the cortical regions that surround the hippocampus. Our goal is use behavioral neuroscience approaches in rats and mice to better understand human cognition.
For decades the hippocampus has been the focus of research on the neural basis of memory. Studies conducted over the last few years have provided evidence that cortical areas surrounding the hippocampus contribute to some forms of memory. Given the long-standing notion that the hippocampus serves a critical role in memory processes, the finding that some memory tasks are sensitive to lesions of these adjacent cortical regions, alone, has highlighted the need for close examination of the function of those adjacent structures. We also have interesting new evidence verifying that cortical regions surrounding the hippocampus also support attentional functions. Current directions in the laboratory address the roles of the perirhinal, postrhinal, entorhinal cortices in memory, attention, and navigation. We are also interested in how prefrontal cortex interacts with these regions to control memory processes.
Using behavioral, electrophysiological, optogenetic, neuroanatomical, and experimental lesion approaches, our laboratory examines the contribution of the perirhinal, postrhinal, and entorhinal cortices, to memory and to other higher cognitive functions. We are also interested in how these regions interact with other structures including the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and striatum. Among other approaches, we employ single-unit recording in behaving animals to examine neuronal firing correlates of behavioral events in tasks that tap such functions as spatial memory, recognition memory, configuration of multiple stimuli, attentional processes, and the processing of context. These approaches are used to differentiate the function of these cortical regions from each other and from those of the hippocampus.