Adolescence typically marks a major transition to independence, which brings with it the need to make important decisions, such as where to forage, where to sleep, and when and where to reproduce. It also often requires a period of exploration, with a high tolerance for risk, that is eventually followed by the formation of more stable adult habits. In humans, adolescence also marks a critical time for the development of addictions. Anatomical studies have shown that the mammalian brain undergoes radical changes during adolescence, particularly in the frontal lobe, which integrates sensory and memory systems and coordinates flexible decision-making. The Wilbrecht lab is focused on understanding the adolescent transition at the synaptic, circuit, and behavioral levels. In particular, they want to understand how adolescents’ experiences with drugs of abuse and natural reinforcers, such as food, alter neural circuitry and decision-making over their lifespans and how neural plasticity can be harnessed to reverse addiction. They hope to understand how changes in neural circuits can bias decision-making to facilitate healthy adult habits or create inflexible addictive behavior.

Lab Members

Jegath Athilingam, Staff Research Associate
Natalia Caporale, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Kiren Chand, Staff Research Associate
Carolyn Johnson, Graduate Student
Moses Lee, Graduate Student
F. Javier Muñoz-Cuevas, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Hannah Peckler, Staff Research Associate
Lung-Hao Tai, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Angela Vandenberg, Graduate Student
Claudia Wu, Staff Research Associate


Johnson C and Wilbrecht L. 2011. Juvenile mice show greater flexibility in multiple choice reversal learning than adults. Dev Cognitive Neurosci. doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2003.10.071. Article (PDF)

Linda Wilbrecht’s publications