Behavioural neuroscience

Coloured brain model

Welcome to the behavioural neuroscience laboratory in the School of Psychology at the University of New South Wales. 

Our research is concerned broadly with the behavioural and brain mechanisms of simple forms of learning and motivation. We focus on Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning preparations and couple these behavioural approaches with a variety of techniques from neuroscience including immunohistochemistry, neuronal tract-tracing, microdialysis, site-specific microinjections, neurotoxic lesions, and immunolesioning. Some specific projects underway in my laboratory are:

Predictive error and Pavlovian association formation

Learning about predictive relations between events is essential for adaptive behaviour. It allows us and other animals to use past events to predict the future and to adjust our behaviour accordingly. Predictive learning depends on what is already known about the events in the relation: if an outcome is unexpected, we learn about cues that predict its occurrence; if the outcome is expected, information provided by other cues about its occurrence is redundant and our learning about them is impaired. Fear learning allows anticipation of sources of danger in the environment. It guides attention away from poorer predictors towards better predictors of danger and elicits defensive behavior appropriate to these threats. This project identifies how the brain predicts danger. It does so in terms of the nature of predictive fear learning, the consequences of this learning for how organisms attend to and learn about dangerous events, and in terms of neural mechanisms.

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UNSW

Contextual control over relapse to drug-seeking

Drug addiction is a major health and societal problem in Australia. It poses significant burdens on individual users, their families, and communities. Prolonged drug use is associated with increased rates of physical health problems including cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and HIV infection; mental health problems including depression and anxiety; and criminal involvement. Considerable progress has been made in understanding the behavioural and brain processes for drug addiction. However, many aspects of drug addiction remain poorly understood. Chief among these are the mechanisms of return or relapse to drug taking after periods of abstinence. Drug addiction, regardless of the drug abused, is a chronically relapsing condition. Most contemporary research has focused on how discrete “triggers” (e.g., stress; negative emotions; drug associated stimuli) cause relapse. However, relapse is not an inevitable consequence of exposure to such “triggers”. Context is an important component of relapse. There are “Achilles’ Heel” situations where relapse is more likely.  This project studies how contexts regulate reward seeking in terms of behavioural processes and neural mechanisms.

Another research interest

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UNSW

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Gavan P. McNally PhD

Associate Professor and Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow

View profile

Wan Yee Macy Chan

PhD Student

Project: NMDA receptors and fear extinction

Kate Hutton-Bedbrook

PhD Student

Project: Glutamate and extinction of reward seeking

Susan Li

PhD Student

Project: Midbrain dopamine and predictive fear learning

Zayra Millan

PhD Student

Project:  Extinction of reward-seeking

Helen Nasser

PhD Student

Project: Appetitive-Aversive interactions

    • Adam Hamlin PhD
    • Kelly Clemens PhD
    • Teri Furlong PhD
    • Joshua Garfield PhD
    • Sindy Cole PhD
    • Laura Bradfield PhD
    • Nathan Marchant PhD
    • Ben Garber
    • Claudia Woolf
    • Sarah Krigstein
    • Lisa Qi
    • Melissa Swift
    • Bradley King
    • Susan Li
    • Wan Yee Macy Chan
    • Alyce McGee
    • Andrea Willcocks
    • Helen Nasser
    • Bridget Spicer
    • Zayra Millan
    • Katherine Nicholls
    • Dean Carson
    • Kataryna Augustyn
    • Jill Newby
    • Jenna Dennison
    • Christina Perry
    • Zara Lam
    • Melissa Wood
    • Laura Bradfield
    • Tamara Lang
    • Sindy Cole
    • Kate Blatchford
    • Brendan Lee
    • Inika Gillis
    • Kerry Diamond
    • Janet Chiem
    • Kuni Takeshima
    • Therese Ma

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Recent

  • 63. Marchant, N.J., Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Hypothalamus and the neurobiology of drug seeking. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, in press.
  • 62. Kim, J., Li, S., Hamlin, A.S., McNally, G.P., & Richardson, R. (2011). Phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala following memory retrieval or forgetting in developing rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, in press.
  • 61.Bagley E.E., Hacker J., Chefer, V.I.., McNally G.P., Chieng, B.C.H., Shippenberg, T.S., & Christie M.J.  (2011). Drug-induced GABA transporter currents enhance GABA release and produce opioid withdrawal behaviors.
  • 60. McNally, G.P., Johansen, J., & Blair, H.T. (2011). Placing prediction into the fear circuit. Trends in Neurosciences, 34, 283-292.
  • 59. Willcocks, A.L., & McNally, G.P. (2011). The role of context in the reacquisition of extinguished reward seeking. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125, 541-550..
  • 58. Weidemann, G., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Neuroscience of associative learning. Oxford Bibliographies Online: Psychology. Oxford.
  • 57. Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Accumbens shell AMPA receptors mediate expression of extinguished reward seeking through interactions with basolateral amygdala. Learning & Memory, 18, 414-421.
  • 56. Cole, S., Richardson, R., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Kappa opioid receptors regulate where fear is expressed after extinction training. Learning & Memory, 18, 88 - 95.
  • 55. Millan, E.Z., Marchant, N.J., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Extinction of drug seeking. Behavioural Brain Research, 217, 454 - 462.
  • 54. Cole, S.  & McNally, G.P. (2011). Endogenous opioids and fear learning. In: N.B. Seel (Ed), Encyclopaedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer. In Press. in press.
    • 63. Marchant, N.J., Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Hypothalamus and the neurobiology of drug seeking. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, in press.
    • 62. Kim, J., Li, S., Hamlin, A.S., McNally, G.P., & Richardson, R. (2011). Phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala following memory retrieval or forgetting in developing rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, in press.
    • 61.Bagley E.E., Hacker J., Chefer, V.I.., McNally G.P., Chieng, B.C.H., Shippenberg, T.S., & Christie M.J.  (2011). Drug-induced GABA transporter currents enhance GABA release and produce opioid withdrawal behaviors.
    • 60. McNally, G.P., Johansen, J., & Blair, H.T. (2011). Placing prediction into the fear circuit. Trends in Neurosciences, 34, 283-292.
    • 59. Willcocks, A.L., & McNally, G.P. (2011). The role of context in the reacquisition of extinguished reward seeking. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125, 541-550..
    • 58. Weidemann, G., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Neuroscience of associative learning. Oxford Bibliographies Online: Psychology. Oxford.
    • 57. Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Accumbens shell AMPA receptors mediate expression of extinguished reward seeking through interactions with basolateral amygdala. Learning & Memory, 18, 414-421.
    • 56. Cole, S., Richardson, R., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Kappa opioid receptors regulate where fear is expressed after extinction training. Learning & Memory, 18, 88 - 95.
    • 55. Millan, E.Z., Marchant, N.J., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Extinction of drug seeking. Behavioural Brain Research, 217, 454 - 462.
    • 54. Cole, S.  & McNally, G.P. (2011). Endogenous opioids and fear learning. In: N.B. Seel (Ed), Encyclopaedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer. In Press. in press.
    • 63. Marchant, N.J., Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Hypothalamus and the neurobiology of drug seeking. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, in press.
    • 62. Kim, J., Li, S., Hamlin, A.S., McNally, G.P., & Richardson, R. (2011). Phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala following memory retrieval or forgetting in developing rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, in press.
    • 61.Bagley E.E., Hacker J., Chefer, V.I.., McNally G.P., Chieng, B.C.H., Shippenberg, T.S., & Christie M.J.  (2011). Drug-induced GABA transporter currents enhance GABA release and produce opioid withdrawal behaviors.
    • 60. McNally, G.P., Johansen, J., & Blair, H.T. (2011). Placing prediction into the fear circuit. Trends in Neurosciences, 34, 283-292.
    • 59. Willcocks, A.L., & McNally, G.P. (2011). The role of context in the reacquisition of extinguished reward seeking. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125, 541-550..
    • 58. Weidemann, G., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Neuroscience of associative learning. Oxford Bibliographies Online: Psychology. Oxford.
    • 57. Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Accumbens shell AMPA receptors mediate expression of extinguished reward seeking through interactions with basolateral amygdala. Learning & Memory, 18, 414-421.
    • 56. Cole, S., Richardson, R., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Kappa opioid receptors regulate where fear is expressed after extinction training. Learning & Memory, 18, 88 - 95.
    • 55. Millan, E.Z., Marchant, N.J., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Extinction of drug seeking. Behavioural Brain Research, 217, 454 - 462.
    • 54. Cole, S.  & McNally, G.P. (2011). Endogenous opioids and fear learning. In: N.B. Seel (Ed), Encyclopaedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer. In Press. in press.
    • 63. Marchant, N.J., Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Hypothalamus and the neurobiology of drug seeking. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, in press.
    • 62. Kim, J., Li, S., Hamlin, A.S., McNally, G.P., & Richardson, R. (2011). Phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala following memory retrieval or forgetting in developing rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, in press.
    • 61.Bagley E.E., Hacker J., Chefer, V.I.., McNally G.P., Chieng, B.C.H., Shippenberg, T.S., & Christie M.J.  (2011). Drug-induced GABA transporter currents enhance GABA release and produce opioid withdrawal behaviors.
    • 60. McNally, G.P., Johansen, J., & Blair, H.T. (2011). Placing prediction into the fear circuit. Trends in Neurosciences, 34, 283-292.
    • 59. Willcocks, A.L., & McNally, G.P. (2011). The role of context in the reacquisition of extinguished reward seeking. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125, 541-550..
    • 58. Weidemann, G., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Neuroscience of associative learning. Oxford Bibliographies Online: Psychology. Oxford.
    • 57. Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Accumbens shell AMPA receptors mediate expression of extinguished reward seeking through interactions with basolateral amygdala. Learning & Memory, 18, 414-421.
    • 56. Cole, S., Richardson, R., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Kappa opioid receptors regulate where fear is expressed after extinction training. Learning & Memory, 18, 88 - 95.
    • 55. Millan, E.Z., Marchant, N.J., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Extinction of drug seeking. Behavioural Brain Research, 217, 454 - 462.
    • 54. Cole, S.  & McNally, G.P. (2011). Endogenous opioids and fear learning. In: N.B. Seel (Ed), Encyclopaedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer. In Press. in press.
    • 63. Marchant, N.J., Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Hypothalamus and the neurobiology of drug seeking. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, in press.
    • 62. Kim, J., Li, S., Hamlin, A.S., McNally, G.P., & Richardson, R. (2011). Phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala following memory retrieval or forgetting in developing rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, in press.
    • 61.Bagley E.E., Hacker J., Chefer, V.I.., McNally G.P., Chieng, B.C.H., Shippenberg, T.S., & Christie M.J.  (2011). Drug-induced GABA transporter currents enhance GABA release and produce opioid withdrawal behaviors.
    • 60. McNally, G.P., Johansen, J., & Blair, H.T. (2011). Placing prediction into the fear circuit. Trends in Neurosciences, 34, 283-292.
    • 59. Willcocks, A.L., & McNally, G.P. (2011). The role of context in the reacquisition of extinguished reward seeking. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125, 541-550..
    • 58. Weidemann, G., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Neuroscience of associative learning. Oxford Bibliographies Online: Psychology. Oxford.
    • 57. Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Accumbens shell AMPA receptors mediate expression of extinguished reward seeking through interactions with basolateral amygdala. Learning & Memory, 18, 414-421.
    • 56. Cole, S., Richardson, R., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Kappa opioid receptors regulate where fear is expressed after extinction training. Learning & Memory, 18, 88 - 95.
    • 55. Millan, E.Z., Marchant, N.J., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Extinction of drug seeking. Behavioural Brain Research, 217, 454 - 462.
    • 54. Cole, S.  & McNally, G.P. (2011). Endogenous opioids and fear learning. In: N.B. Seel (Ed), Encyclopaedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer. In Press. in press.
    • 63. Marchant, N.J., Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Hypothalamus and the neurobiology of drug seeking. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, in press.
    • 62. Kim, J., Li, S., Hamlin, A.S., McNally, G.P., & Richardson, R. (2011). Phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase in the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala following memory retrieval or forgetting in developing rats. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, in press.
    • 61.Bagley E.E., Hacker J., Chefer, V.I.., McNally G.P., Chieng, B.C.H., Shippenberg, T.S., & Christie M.J.  (2011). Drug-induced GABA transporter currents enhance GABA release and produce opioid withdrawal behaviors.
    • 60. McNally, G.P., Johansen, J., & Blair, H.T. (2011). Placing prediction into the fear circuit. Trends in Neurosciences, 34, 283-292.
    • 59. Willcocks, A.L., & McNally, G.P. (2011). The role of context in the reacquisition of extinguished reward seeking. Behavioral Neuroscience, 125, 541-550..
    • 58. Weidemann, G., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Neuroscience of associative learning. Oxford Bibliographies Online: Psychology. Oxford.
    • 57. Millan, E.Z., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Accumbens shell AMPA receptors mediate expression of extinguished reward seeking through interactions with basolateral amygdala. Learning & Memory, 18, 414-421.
    • 56. Cole, S., Richardson, R., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Kappa opioid receptors regulate where fear is expressed after extinction training. Learning & Memory, 18, 88 - 95.
    • 55. Millan, E.Z., Marchant, N.J., & McNally, G.P. (2011). Extinction of drug seeking. Behavioural Brain Research, 217, 454 - 462.
    • 54. Cole, S.  & McNally, G.P. (2011). Endogenous opioids and fear learning. In: N.B. Seel (Ed), Encyclopaedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer. In Press. in press.
 Gavan McNally
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School of Psychology
The University of New South Wales
Sydney, NSW, 2052 Australia

T: +61 2 9385 3044
E: g.mcnally@unsw.edu.au

Office: 504 Mathews
Lab: 614 - 612 Mathews