Skip to main content


Neural basis of Pavlovian-Instrumental Transfer

Research Achievements

Neural basis of Pavlovian-Instrumental Transfer

Merissa Remus uses behavioral and molecular approaches to study the neural basis of Pavlovian-Instrumental Transfer (PIT), a form of learning. In a typical experiment, rats learn that a tone is paired with reward. Subsequently, they learn to press a lever to obtain that reward. Transfer is demonstrated when presentation of the tone increases the rate of lever pressing. The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is one of several brain areas involved in PIT. In humans, PIT may explain our response to certain types of advertising.

Remus studies a molecular pathway implicated in PIT: the extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) pathway. Her IGERT project asks whether NAc neurons exhibiting ERK response to the tone project to the ventromedial ventral pallidum (vmVP). Under the tutelage of neuroanatomist Susan Sesack, Remus has learned to use the retrograde tracer Flurogold. By combining tracer injections in vmVP with ERK detection in NAc, she will be able to answer her question.