Dr. Aaron Gruber

Name: Aaron Gruber
Phone: 403.394.3934
E-mail: aaron.gruber@uleth.ca
Office: EP1260
Lab: EP1219

PhD Northwestern University
MSc Northwestern University
BSc University of Cincinnati



I have long been fascinated to know why people often want some things more than we want others – deserts instead of vegetables, or a sports car instead of a mini-van. Luckily, technology now allows us to examine how the brain makes such decisions. My laboratory investigates how people and animals can use past experience to make decisions. One area of focus is how dopamine affects behaviour by modulating learning and ongoing neural synchronization among multiple brain structures. This process appears to become dysfunctional in addiction and in some pressing psychiatric diseases, afflictions that greatly alter decisions. One goal of our research is to understand how neural information processing is altered in these disorders so as to provide new targets for developing improved treatments. We employ a multidisciplinary approach for this investigation.

Research techniques:

  • Electrophysiology in behaving rats
  • Electrophysiology in brain slices
  • Optogenetics in behaving rats and brain slice preparations
  • Behavioural assays
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Computational modelling

Join our team:

Please contact Dr. Gruber if you are interested in joining our research team as a student, post-doc or collaborator.


Fundamental Neurobiology (NEUR3600; Spring term)

Decision Making and the Brain (NEUR3850; Fall term)

Lab Web Site:



Skelin, I., Hakstol, R., Mudiayi, D., Molina, L., Hong, N.S., Euston, D., McDonald, R.J., Gruber, A.J., “Medial and lateral regions of dorsal striatum promote lose-switch responding and are unnecessary for either repetitive or random choices in rats”. European Journal of Neuroscience, in press

Molina, L., Skelin, I., Gruber, A.J. “Acute NMDA receptor antagonism disrupts synchronization of action potential firing in rat prefrontal cortex”. PLoS One, 9(1), e85842, 2014

Jones, JL, Esber GR, McDannald MA, Gruber AJ, Hernandez A, Mirenzi A, Schoenbaum G. 2012. Orbitofrontal cortex supports behavior and learning using inferred but not cached values, Nov 16. Science. 338:953-6.

Euston, DR, Gruber AJ, McNaughton BL. 2012. The role of medial prefrontal cortex in memory and decision making, Dec 20. Neuron. 76:1057-70.

Gruber, AJ, McDonald RJ. 2012. Context, emotion, and the strategic pursuit of goals: interactions among multiple brain systems controlling motivated behavior. Front Behav Neurosci. 6:50.

Gruber, A.J., Calhoon, G., Shusterman, I., Schoenbaum, G., and Roesch, M., O’Donnell, P. “More Is Less: A Disinhibited Prefrontal Cortex Impairs Cognitive Flexibility”. J Neurosci. 30(50):17102–17110, 2010.

Minae Niwa, Atsushi Kamiya, Rina Murai, Ken-ichiro Kubo, Aaron J. Gruber, Lingling Lu, Saurav Seshadri, Shuta Tomisato, Hideki Hiyama, Hanna Jaaro-Peled, Yukihiro Noda, Nicola Cascella, Kazuhisa, Koda, Patricio O'donnell, Kazunori Nakajima, Akira Sawa, and Toshitaka Nabeshima “Transient knockdown of DISC1 in the developing cerebral cortex leads to dopaminergic disturbance and schizophrenia-like deficits in young adult mice”, Neuron, 65(4):480-489, 2010.

Gruber, A.J., Hussin, R., and O'Donnell, P. "Dynamic gating in the nucleus accumbens: Behavioral state-dependent synchrony with the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus". PLoS ONE, 4(4):e5062, 2009.

Gruber, A.J. Powell, E., and O'Donnell, P. "Inhibition shapes responses of accumbens spiny neurons to spatiotemporal aspects of bursting cortical activation". J Neurophysiol 101:1876-82, 2009.

Gruber, A.J. and O'Donnell, P. "Bursting activation of prefrontal cortex drives sustained up states in nucleus accumbens spiny neurons in vivo". Synapse 63:173-180, 2009.

Gruber, A.J., Dayan P., Gutkin B.S., and Solla, S.A. "Dopamine modulation in the basal ganglia locks the gate to working memory". J Computational Neuroscience 20(2): 153-166, 2006.

Gruber, A.J., Dayan P., Gutkin B.S., and Solla, S.A. Dopamine modulation in a basal ganglio-cortical network implements saliency-based gating of working memory. NIPS 16: 1271-1278, 2004.

Gruber, A.J., Solla, S.A., Surmeier, D.J., Houk, J.C. Modulation of striatal single units by expected reward: A model of spiny neurons displays dopamine-induced bistability. J Neurophysiology 90: 1095-1114, 2003.

Gruber, A.J., Solla, S.A., Houk, J.C. Dopamine induced bistability enhances signal processing in spiny neurons. NIPS 15: 181-188, 2003.