Ingo Willuhn


Behavioral Neuroscience

Focus of research

I am a behavioral neuroscientist with a background in functional neuroanatomy. I am interested in how our brain controls motivated behavior and why we sometimes lose that control. My scientific focus lies on how release of the neurotransmitter dopamine (and other neuromodulators such as serotonin) regulates cortico-basal ganglia networks under normal (e.g., reinforcement learning, decision making), as well as pathological conditions (e.g., OCD, drug addiction). My research group pursues these goals by collecting a range of neurobiological measurements in awake behaving rodents (voltammetry, electrophysiology, calcium imaging etc.) and by probing neural mechanisms with optogenetic, chemogenetic, and pharmacological interventions. 

We study how the brain produces automatic and habitual actions (behavior outside of conscious control), and how dysregulation of such actions may contribute to compulsive behavior, a common denominator to several neuro-psychiatric disorders such as OCD, addictions, and eating disorders. Compulsive behavior may occur due to dysregulation of several individual behavioral functions (components), such as cognitive flexibility and habit formation. We study compulsive behavior itself, a variety of its presumed components, and their brain mechanisms in rodents, but in the long run, our research is intended to lead to novel insights that improve psychiatric therapy in human patients.