Kate M Wassum

Kate M Wassum

(310) 825-5443

Franz Hall Room 8548
Los Angeles, CA 90095


Associate Professor, Psychology
Member, Brain Research Institute, Neuroscience GPB Home Area


Our goals are to 1. Elucidate the neural signals and circuits underlying appetitive associative learning and motivated beahvior and 2. To understand how disruptions in these mechanisms can produce the maldaptive behavior that underlies mental illness.

Associative memories underlie a large majority of our emotions, motivations, and decisions. We strive to understand how these memories are formed and stored in the brain and how they combine with one’s current state to dictate behavior. Our ultimate goal is to facilitate the understanding and treatment of the mental illnesses, such as drug and alcohol addiction, that arise from disruptions in these neural systems.

We take a multidisciplinary approach to our research, combining behavioral procedures rooted in the rich traditions of learning theory with advanced neural recording, interference, and/or molecular methods. We collaborate heavily to achieve our goals.

One aim of the lab is to ‘decode’ the brain signals underlying discrete aspects of motivated behavior and then, using interference methods, to test the causal role for these signals in behavior. Neural circuits, rather than individual brain structures, control complex behavior. So we also work to parse the precise contribution of specific brain circuits to motivated behavior. As part of this, we are assessing how neurochemical interactions within a brain region modulate circuit dynamics. Lastly, we aim to determine the mechanisms regulating the encoding of stimulus-response and action-goal associative memories and the balance of behavioral control between these habitual and goal-directed systems. We focus on cortico-striatal-limbic circuitry. Tool development is also a goal, which we pursue through multidisciplinary collaboration.


A selected list of publications: