Exploring the Complexities of Neurobehavior

Published in Neuroscience
Exploring the Complexities of Neurobehavior

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I recently attend the Neurobehavior Symposium held at Stanford University on June 24th and 25th, 2023. The symposium, hosted by Prof. Mehrdad Shamloo, brought together leading experts in the field to discuss various aspects of neurobehavior. Here, I highlight the key insights shared by the speakers.

Day 1 Summary:

 The symposium kicked off with opening remarks by Prof. Mehrdad Shamloo that expressed gratitude for the attendees and emphasized the significance of the program's discussions and presentations by experts in contributing to new understandings. Prof. Mehrdad Shamloo encouraged the audience to explore and learn more from the speakers, setting the tone for the day's insightful talks.

The first talk was an insightful presentation  by Dr. Richard Morris from the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Richard Morris delved into the fascinating world of memory encoding, storage, and retrieval. Dr. Morris challenged traditional notions of memory and underscored the involvement of neural processes and changes in brain activity. He outlined different types of memory, including short-term and long-term memory, noting the transfer of information from long-term semantic memory into short-term working memory. The discovery of place cells and their role in spatial navigation was also discussed, and how contemporary endoscopic calcium imaging developed at Stanford can be used to examine aspects of navigational planning in his new task, the event arena. Dr Morris’ experiments on the impact of retention interval on memory recall, and the role of both early- and late-LTP in mediating information storage and retention, provided valuable insights into the interplay between neural activity, spatial navigation, novelty, and memory enhancement.

 The second talk by Dr. David Wolfer, University of Zurich, focused on the challenges of studying behavior in animal models and emphasized the importance of evaluating behavior as an indicator of brain function. Dr. Wolfer discussed the complexities introduced by factors such as compensatory mechanisms, genetic background, and environmental influences. Dr. Wolfer highlighted the use of incremental approaches and carefully designed behavioral tests, introducing Principal Component Analysis (PCA) as a tool to analyze behavioral variables. The application of PCA to water maze and open field tasks demonstrated its effectiveness in identifying key components related to different aspects of behavior, enabling a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between brain function and behavior.

 Next, the third talk by Hans-Peter Lipp, University of Zurich, explored the unique characteristics of mouse behavior and the need to consider the differences between human and mouse brain structures. The speaker compared the sensory systems and cortical organization of mice and humans, emphasizing the reliance of mice on primary sensory and motor areas. The importance of the basal forebrain system in guiding behavior was highlighted, along with the involvement of the supraspinal motor system. The talk stressed the significance of understanding the spinal motor system in comprehending brain behavior while acknowledging the challenges associated with studying it.

Here is a link provided by Dr. Lipp: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2022.958067

 In the fourth talk, Dr. Sandeep Robert Datta from Harvard University discussed the complexity of natural behavior and the mechanisms underlying it. They introduced the Motion Sequencing (MOST) tool to analyze behavioral modules and the role of the dorsolateral striatum (DLS) in generating and organizing behavior. The effects of dopamine on behavioral syllables and sequences were explored, highlighting its influence on reinforcement and behavior. The use of motion sequencing to infer an animal's internal state based on external behavior was also discussed, providing insights into individual variability and its impact on behavior.

 The fifth talk by Dr. Michael Fanselow from UCLA focused on defensive behavior, examining the transition between adaptive and maladaptive responses. The concept of predatory imminence and the three modes of defensive behavior were introduced, along with the impact of acute traumatic stressors on fear conditioning. The involvement of stress in affecting defensive responses was explored, along with the changes in glutamate receptor proteins in the basolateral amygdala (BLA). The study suggested that stress induces changes in the BLA, leading to enhanced fear learning and an increase in GluA1-containing AMPA receptors, which may drive excessive plasticity. The talk shed light on the intricate relationship between stress, fear learning, and changes in neural circuits.

 The sixth and final talk of the day by Dr. Barbara Knowlton from UCLA focused on habits and goal-directed actions. The speaker discussed the distinction between these two types of behavior and the challenges associated with studying them. They highlighted the benefits of habits in guiding behavior automatically but noted the potential conflicts with goal-directed actions. The talk presented a method to differentiate between habit-based and goal-directed actions through outcome devaluation. Factors influencing habit learning, such as reinforcement schedule and overtraining, were examined, as well as the role of cortical-striatal loops. The talk mentioned an experiment involving lesions in the dorsolateral striatum, which disrupted habitual behavior and provided insight into outcome devaluation.


The first day of the Neurobehavior Symposium at Stanford University was filled with captivating talks that shed light on memory encoding, behavior in animal models, mouse behavior, natural behavior, defensive behavior, and the complexities of habits and goal-directed actions. The speakers presented groundbreaking research, challenged conventional understanding, and provided valuable insights into the intricate relationship between brain function and behavior. The symposium's attendees were left with a deeper understanding of these complex topics and a renewed appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of neurobehavior research.


Stay tuned for the summary of Day 2, where we continued to explore the fascinating world of neurobehavior and delve into more thought-provoking discussions and research findings.


In the evening, after the symposium's end, walking along the trail, the sun did descend.

Its warm rays embraced my face with grace, stirring memories, feelings, and my inner space.

Within the depths of our conscious mind,

Where do our memory and emotions find?

In the dance of light, they shimmer in sight.

In the depths of our being, our brain pulses true,

A symphony of thoughts, in all that we pursue.


All the photos included in this blog were taken by the author. The author has obtained permission from all speakers to post their summaries and photos in this blog. If you wish to use any of the content or photos, please contact the author for further information.

Additionally, if you are interested in collaborating on summarizing the day 2 symposium, please reach out to the author.


This symposium was hosted by Stanford Program for Integrated Neuroscience Technologies (SPrINT) & Behavioral and Functional Neuroscience Laboratory in collaboration with NIH BRAIN Initiative

The author of this blog, Hansen Chen, is supported by the AHA postdoctoral fellowship 916011 and NIH grants provided by Dr. Gary Steinberg's lab. Special thanks to Dr. Michelle Cheng for recommending the symposium.

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