Jill K. Leutgeb, Ph.D.
Professor of Neurobiology, Walter F. Heiligenberg Professor of Neuroethology
University of California San Diego
Born in 1974 in Utah, USA
Studied Biology, Chemistry, Neurosciences, and Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah and Neurophysiology at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
How Memory Circuits in the Brain Use Information about the Past to Inform Future ChoicesLearning and memory are core cognitive functions that are supported by complex neural circuits in the brain. The key region for the formation of new autobiographical memories is the hippocampus. Within the hippocampus, the dentate gyrus (DG) is a highly specialized brain region with unique properties. First, the DG has particularly expanded in the mammalian lineage and is the subregion with the highest number of neurons. Second, neurons in the DG continue to be born in the adult brain, which is unique among brain regions and is thought to convey a heightened level of plasticity. Third, neurons in the DG have large specialized synapses, such that activity in target neurons can be elicited by one or just a few inputs. While the many specializations point to the hippocampal DG network as a key region for memory-related computations, the function of the DG remains understudied and poorly understood compared with other modules in memory networks. Understanding DG network computations is essential for therapeutic intervention in disease, as cellular changes in the DG are among the first to be identified in aging, depression, and epilepsy. My previous work has shown that neuronal activity patterns in the DG have a pivotal role in pattern separation. Pattern separation is an essential neural computation that allows for similar memories to be stored in distinct subpopulations of neurons, such that memories do not interfere with each other. More recently, I have discovered that neuronal activity in the DG not only distinguishes among similar patterns, but may also contribute to the planning of future actions. However, it remains unknown how the computations in the DG are integrated into a broader network that processes the outcome of past actions to inform future memory-guided choices. My goal is to experimentally and conceptually advance our understanding of the neural mechanisms for memory and decision making by focusing on computations that originate in dentate networks.
Leutgeb, Jill K., Stefan Leutgeb, May-Britt Moser, and Edvard I. Moser (2007). “Pattern Separation in the Dentate Gyrus and CA3 of the Hippocampus.” Science 315: 961–966. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1135801.
Mankin, Emily A., Fraser T. Sparks, Begum Slayyeh, Robert J. Sutherland, Stefan Leutgeb, and Jill K. Leutgeb (2012). “Neuronal Code for Extended Time in the Hippocampus.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: 19462–19467. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1214107109.
Sasaki, Takuya, Verónica C. Piatti, Ernie Hwaun, Siavash Ahmadi, John E. Lisman, Stefan Leutgeb, and Jill K. Leutgeb (2018). “Dentate Network Activity Is Necessary for Spatial Working Memory by Supporting CA3 Sharp-Wave Ripple Generation and Prospective Firing of CA3 Neurons.” Nature Neuroscience 21: 258–269. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-017-0061-5.