Hutment Laboratory

Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, India

Supervisor: Prof. Vidita Vaidya

Neurobiology of Emotion

Research Focus

Life experiences have a profound impact on the brain. Our lab is interested in (1) understanding the neurocircuitry of emotion, (2) its modulation by life experience and mood modulatory drugs (serotonergic psychedelics and pharmacological antidepressants), and (3) the alterations in emotional neurocircuitry that underlie complex psychiatric disorders like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Using animal models of psychiatric vulnerability, in particular those that are based on perturbations of early life experience, we study the molecular, epigenetic, cellular, bioenergetic, and functional changes that contribute to long-lasting alterations in behavior. We explore the importance of early critical periods in setting up vulnerability or resilience to psychopathology by using environmental, pharmacological, genetic, or chemogenetic (DREADDs) perturbations. We are interested in the changes that arise in the development of stress neurocircuitry thus directly impacting adult stress responses, and generating a substrate for vulnerability or resilience to psychopathology. Our studies have focused on the role of serotonin (5-HT) and the Gq-coupled 5-HT2A receptor in contributing to behavioral alterations and cellular changes in limbic neurocircuitry observed in animal models of psychiatric vulnerability. We also study the modulation of bioenergetics within neurocircuits that modulate mood, in particular the relevance of mitochondrial biogenesis and function in the etiology and treatment of mood disorders. Our work addresses the relationship between early stress, neuroinflammation, and mitochondrial dysfunction in psychopathology as well as aging. We also investigate the molecular and cellular adaptations that arise from sustained antidepressant treatment including fast-acting antidepressant therapies. Amongst these adaptations is the regulation of adult neural stem cells and in neuronal cytoarchitecture in key limbic neurocircuits. We are interested in the pathways that regulate these neuroplastic changes and their contribution to mood-related behavior. We use pharmacological and genetic approaches, and tools spanning molecular, cell biological, and behavioral studies to understand the neurocircuitry of emotion.

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