Duvarci Lab

Dopaminergic mechanisms underlying learning and memory

Group Leader

Dr. Sevil Duvarci


What we do

Scientific Focus

The ability to respond appropriately when avoiding danger such as predators as well as when seeking rewards such as food is crucial for survival. Neuromodulatory systems are activated by such emotional and salient events and strongly influence learning and memory. Our group is interested in understanding the neuromodulatory control of brain circuits underlying emotional and cognitive processing. In particular, we are interested in how activity of dopamine neurons regulates neural circuits that support emotional learning such as fear and safety learning as well as cognitive functions such as working memory.

Furthermore, disruptions in the neuromodulatory regulation of neural circuits play a major role in the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression and schizophrenia yet exactly how they do so is insufficiently understood. To address these questions, we use state-of the-art techniques including multi-site in vivo electrophysiological recordings of neuronal activity and cell type- and projection-specific calcium recordings in awake behaving mice performing behavioral tasks. To investigate the causal contribution of defined activity patterns to behavior, we perform optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulations of neuronal activity. These experiments are carried out in wild-type mice as well as mouse models of psychiatric disorders.


  • Electrophysiological recordings in awake behaving mice
  • Calcium and dopamine biosensor recordings using fiber photometry
  • Optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulations
  • Animal behavior
  • Animal models of psychiatric disorders


Natasha Nadeem Khan

PhD student

Ximena Salinas Hernández

PhD student

Daphne Zafiri

PhD student

    • Vogel P, Hahn J, Duvarci S, Sigurdsson T. (2022) Prefrontal pyramidal neurons are critical for all phases of working memory. Cell Reports 39:110659.
    • Salinas-Hernández XI, Duvarci S. (2021) Dopamine in fear extinction. Front Synaptic Neurosci. 13:635879.
    • Farassat N, Costa KM, Stojanovic S, Albert S, Kovacheva L, Shin J, Egger R, Somayaji M, Duvarci S, Schneider G, Roeper J. (2019) In vivo functional diversity of midbrain dopamine neurons within identified axonal projections. Elife. pii:e48408.
    • Kalisch R, Gerlicher AMV, Duvarci S. (2019) A dopaminergic basis for fear extinction. Trends Cogn Sci. 23:274-277.
    • Salinas-Hernández X.I., Vogel P., Betz S., Kalisch R., Sigurdsson T. and Duvarci S. (2018) Dopamine neurons drive fear extinction learning by signaling the omission of expected aversive outcomes. Elife. pii: e38818.
    • Duvarci S., Simpson E.H., Schneider G., Kandel E.R., Roeper J. * and Sigurdsson T. * (2018) Impaired recruitment of dopamine neurons during working memory mice with striatal D2 receptor overexpression. Nature Communications 9:2822.
    • Gärtner M.*, Duvarci S.*, Roeper J. and Schneider G. (2017) Detecting joint pausiness in parallel spike trains. J Neurosci Methods. 285:69-81. (*Equal contribution)
    • Sigurdsson T. and Duvarci S. (2016) Hippocampal-prefrontal interactions in cognition, behavior and psychiatric disease. Front. Syst. Neurosci. 9:190.
    • Duvarci S. and Pare D. (2014) Amygdala microcircuits controlling learned fear. Neuron 82:966-980.
    • Pare D. and Duvarci S. (2012). Amygdala microcircuits mediating fear expression and extinction. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 22:717-723.
      Amano T.*, Duvarci S.*, Popa D., Paré D. (2011) The fear circuit revisited: contributions of the basal amygdala nuclei to conditioned fear. The Journal of Neuroscience 31: 15481-15489.(*Equal contribution)
      Duvarci S.*, Popa D.*, Paré D. (2011) Central amygdala activity during fear conditioning. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31:289-294.
    • Popa D.*, Duvarci S.*, Popescu A.T., Léna C., Paré D. (2010) Coherent amygdalocortical theta promotes fear memory consolidation during paradoxical sleep. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 107:6516-6519. (*Equal contribution)
    • Duvarci S., Bauer E.P., Pare D. (2009) The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis mediates inter-individual variations in anxiety and fear. The Journal of Neuroscience. 29:10357-10361. (recommended by Faculty of 1000)
    • Duvarci S., Nader K., LeDoux J.E. (2008) de novo mRNA synthesis is required for both consolidation and reconsolidation of fear memories in the amygdala. Learning and Memory, 15:747-755.
    • Duvarci S., Pare D. (2007) Glucocorticoids enhance the excitability of principal basolateral amygdala neurons. The Journal of Neuroscience, 27:4482-4491.
    • Duvarci S., ben Mamou C., Nader K. (2006) Extinction is not a sufficient condition to prevent fear memories from undergoing reconsolidation in the basolateral amygdala. The European Journal of Neuroscience, 24:249-261.
    • Duvarci S., Nader K., LeDoux J.E. (2005) Activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase- mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade in the amygdala is required for memory reconsolidation of auditory fear conditioning. The European Journal of Neuroscience, 21:283-289. (recommended by Faculty of 1000)
    • Duvarci S., Nader K. (2004) Characterization of fear memory reconsolidation. The Journal of Neuroscience, 24(42):9269-9275