Reward Monitoring Local Field Potentials (LFP) in the Medial Frontal Cortex

Greetings, my name is Joshua Chandra and at the time of writing this, I am a first-year Neuroscience Ph.D. student. I recently finished my first rotation in the CC Lab in the Fall of 2021 where I spent the past 10 weeks beginning in September of 2021 and ending in December 2021. I was initially interested in decision-making from prior experience and so I wanted to explore this area further. The project I focused on involved analyzing Reward Monitoring LFP data obtained from non-human primates.

            The project specifically focused on the area of the brain called the Supplementary Eye Field (SEF) which is part of the medial frontal cortex. The SEF is connected with the Orbitofrontal, cingulate, and dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, of which these regions are known to be involved in rewards-based decision making. Thus, we wanted to see the role of the SEF in rewards-based decision-making. The CC Lab has found that the SEF is causally involved in Rewards-Based Decision Making and moreover the SEF also encodes reward monitoring signals such as reward prediction error and reward expectation. Previous work used looked at spiking activity to assess this. Under the guidance of Dr. Chen, we proceeded to look into LFP as it is more robust and gives an extra angle to see SEF activity.

            My time in the lab exploring LFP was fruitful. We started with paper readings and MATLAB introductions to bring me up to speed. I was interested in the material but wasn’t well versed in the background and coding aspects but even with those drawbacks, I was able to eventually pick things up with Dr. Chen’s tutelage. We started off more simply by just plotting raw LFP data and worked our way to more complex plots. Eventually, we were able to see very interesting plots which should be explored further using Spectrum Analysis but the time window I had during my rotation was soon to be over at that point (and I had way too many tests from classes to deal with).

            Although I joined the lab during a not super opportune time (i.e., the lab just starting and not fully set up) I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. It was cool being her first rotation student and it also being my first rotation! The dynamic with other lab members was second to none as they were super warm and friendly and being able to see a lab start from the ground up was super fun. Unfortunately, that also meant I couldn’t work with the monkeys directly though! Regardless, Dr. Chen is truly a great mentor and welcoming and I thank her for all she did for me. Really helped me pick up some skills in areas I had very little knowledge in. I’m sure what I gained during my time in the lab will help my scientific future immensely.

            Thank you again to Dr. Chen and the CC Lab for a wonderful rotation!