Behavioral and translational neuroscience

Using a combination of traditional behavioral testing, modern manipulation methods, and advanced imaging, our research mainly focuses on the neurobiological basis of behavior, both in physiological and pathological circumstances.

Our research group consists of researchers with a variety of backgrounds. Since summer 2019, the group consists of two teams: Snoerenlab and McCutcheonlab.


New paper: the pauses during sex

In Snoerenlab, we are very passionate about studying animal behavior in great depth. In our opinion, a thorough understanding of the patterns and structures of complex behavior, such as sexual behavior, is absolutely necessary for the formation of new hypotheses about how the brain regulates the behavior. In the recent decades, many new methods have been developed to study and manipulate the activity of neurons in specific brain regions. The description and analysis of behavioral results in studies using these techniques are often oversimplified. This leads to many missed opportunities in advancing our understanding of the relation between the brain and behavior. Therefore, we decided it was time to up the game for studies of sexual behavior in male rats, focusing on the behavioral organization of the pauses during sex in our latest paper which is now published in Behavioural Processes.


New paper: Protein appetite drives macronutrient-related differences in ventral tegmental area neural activity

Not getting enough of the macronutrient protein in our diet has severe consequences for health and ultimately can lead to death. It has even been suggested that a low level of dietary protein can cause obesity by leveraging up intake of fat and carbohydrate. However, little is known about how the brain ensures adequate protein intake. In this recent paper published open access in The Journal of Neuroscience , we showed that when rats were protein-restricted a key part of the brain's reward circuity, the VTA, was activated more strongly when rats were drinking protein than carbohydrate. Moreover, after the rats' diet was changed their behavior towards protein shifted quickly even though the VTA activity evoked by protein remained high.Thus, there might be persistent effects of protein deprivation on brain activation.


New paper: Rat ultrasonic vocalizations and novelty-induced social and non-social investigation behavior in a seminatural environment

Babies cry, dogs bark, horses neigh and birds sing. Every animal makes its own sounds which can serve different functions. Babies might cry because they are hungry and want attention from their mothers, dogs bark to communicate they want to play or to warn for intruders, and birds sing to attract a mate partner. Rats also make sounds, and some of these sounds, ultrasonic vocalizations, are sounds that we as humans cannot hear. In our latest study, published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, we investigated the role of these vocalizations in more detail: do silent rats behave differently or similarly to vocalizing rats when we put them in a seminatural environment with multiple unfamiliar rats?



The group:
Eelke Snoeren Group Leader
James McCutcheon Professor
Roy Heijkoop Head engineer
Patty Huijgens PhD student
Jaume Ferrer Lalanza Postdoc
Linnea Volcko Postdoc
Mette Kongstorp Postdoc
Geed Assadi Staff engineer
Håkon Nestvold Staff engineer
Former members
Bernd Coester Guest PhD
Indrek Heinla Postdoc
Jesper Solheim Johansen Profesjonstudent
Ole Christian Sylte Profesjonstudent
Jasmin Wilhelmsen Bachelor student
Aslaug Angelsen Bachelor student
Thor-Arne Sørlie Bachelor student
Jan Hegstad M. Psych.
Bjørn Skagen M. Psych.
Danielle Houwing Guest PhD