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Kauê Machado Costa, Ph.D.

National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program


Kauê Machado Costa is a postdoctoral visiting fellow in Geoffrey Schoenbaum’s lab at the National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 2010 from the Federal University of Pará, in northern Brazil. He then obtained a master in physiology in 2012 from the School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto in the University of São Paulo, where he studied neural mechanisms of cardiorespiratory control with Benedito H. Machado. Kauê earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2018 from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Goethe University, in Germany. In his doctoral work with Jochen Roeper, Kauê discovered a K+ channel regulatory mechanism active in a subset of dopamine neurons that controls learning from negative prediction errors. He also found out that DAT-Cre mice, a widely used model in dopamine research, show surprising sex-specific alterations in behavior and DAT expression. As a postdoc, he demonstrated that the orbitofrontal cortex is critical for new latent learning in different behavioral contexts. Specifically, he showed that neuronal activity in this brain region is necessary for determining the specificity of associative learning during the creation of cognitive maps. His ongoing work combines principled behavioral tasks in freely-moving rats with computational modelling and systems neuroscience techniques like in vivo electrophysiology, endoscope imaging, multi-site fiber photometry, and opto/chemogenetics. He applies these methods to understand how the orbitofrontal cortex and different dopamine projection pathways support model-based learning and decision making. His long-term goal is to help uncover how higher-order cognition can arise from the interaction of molecular, cellular, and circuit mechanisms of information processing in the brain. He has a special interest in the mammalian midbrain dopamine system and how the cellular properties of dopamine neurons can shape their role in associative learning.

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