The Wilbrecht lab research is focused on how experience alters neural circuits that contribute to value and reward based decision making. We want to understand how early life experience with trauma or drugs of abuse might alter or limit human potential. We are particularly interested mechanisms that regulate sensitive periods for neural plasticity and how these map onto the maturation of frontal cortical-striatal circuits. Through better knowledge of neural plasticity and sensitive period regulation in frontal circuits, we hope to identify strategies to facilitate change in neural circuits and promote healthy decision making. The Wilbrecht lab focuses largely on rodent models, but we are also collecting our first data from human subjects. In these studies we are particularly interested in social and economic factors that impact future time perspective, risk taking, and decision making at puberty.
Linda Wilbrecht did her PhD research in the laboratory of Fernando Nottebohm at the Rockefeller University where she studied mechanisms that regulate the sensitive period for song learning in birds. In her postdoctoral training at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory with Karel Svoboda and UCSF with Michael Merzenich she studied mechanisms by which the neocortex can reorganize in response to changes in experience. Since 2008, Dr. Wilbrecht has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at UCSF and an Investigator at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center. She is also a recipient of the 2009 NIMH Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS award) and a 2010 Presidential Early Career Award for Science and Engineering (PECASE). In 2013, the Wilbrecht lab will move to the Psychology Department at the University of California, Berkeley.