Damhyeon Kwak is a neuroscience Ph.D. student at the University of Utah. Before joining the Frost Lab, Kwak completed her master’s degree at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology in Gaegu, Korea. There, she utilized intracortical recordings to understand neural activity driving group behavior. Her work in the Frost Lab continues this focus on understanding circuit function underlying social behavior, and in particular she is interested in understanding how information related to social decisions and actions is altered by behavioral context, and in mouse models of neuropsychiatric disease.
Principal Investigator: Nicholas Frost
Fellow: Erika Blaine
Undergraduate Fellow Project:
Social behavior entails dynamic and reciprocal interaction among two or more conspecifics, and adaptive social behavior is important in survival. As in other complex behaviors, social information related to social interactions is represented across distributed circuit within the brain. Autism is marked by maladaptive social functioning and abnormal social behavior is recapitulated in mice harboring mutations found in humans with autism, including the postsynaptic scaffolding molecule Shank3. In this project, we will characterize the social interactions in dyads of mice with different social contexts by varying familiarity and/or Shank3 genotypes. Along with the behavioral characterization, we will investigate how socially relevant information is routed in neural circuits by microendoscopic calcium imaging, focusing on understanding how coordinated activity of neural ensembles within the prefrontal cortex contributes to the communication of social information between brain regions by recruiting specific projections to downstream regions. We aim to elucidate the underlying mechanism of how social information is differentially represented according to different social contexts, and how it becomes dysfunctional in Shank3 mutants.