The clem laboratory
of emotional brain plasticity

Emotional experiences leave an enduring record in the brain by way of structural and molecular remodeling of cells and synapses.  While these modifications help organisms respond appropriately to threats and rewards, they also contribute to maladaptive states like addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Many key characteristics of emotional memory mirror those of synaptic plasticity in reduced neuronal preparations.  For example, both involve changes in neurotransmission that can persist for long periods provided they undergo molecular stabilization.  We now recognize, however, that this basic model fails to capture the complexity of processes that contribute to emotional memory storage, or that update or inhibit memory as behavioral conditions change. 

We utilize molecular and electrophysiological approaches, including optogenetic stimulation, to identify how associative fear conditioning modifies neural pathways and individual neurons in limbic and cortical brain regions.  Once fear responses are established, other experiments address the mechanisms that contribute to their long-term maintenance, as well as their reinforcement or attenuation by molecular and behavioral interventions. 

Research Projects and Approaches


Roger Clem, PhD

Work in my lab is focused on how experience alters the function of brain circuits to encode emotional responses.

j of Structural Biology

Arruda-Carvalho M, Clem RL. Pathway-Selective Adjustment of Prefrontal-Amygdala Transmission during Fear Encoding.J Neurosci. 2014 Nov 19;34(47):15601-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2664-14.2014.

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