Dr. Aaron Gruber

Phone: (403) 394-3934
e-mail: aaron.gruber@uleth.ca
Office: EP 1260
Lab: EP 1219

Research Interests

Dr. Gruber’s laboratory investigates the neural basis of attention and decision making in complex environments, with a focus on how neuromodulators such as dopamine influence neural synchronization, information encoding, and learning in cortical and subcortical brain structures. One goal of this investigation is to better understand how subtle alterations of neural dynamics, such as that associated with psychiatric illness and psychoactive drugs, can lead to distractibility and poor decision making. Dr. Gruber’s laboratory undertakes these investigations using a multidiciplinary approach that includes neural recording, pharmacology and computational modeling.


Aaron Gruber received his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, writing his dissertation on computational models of working memory and its modulation by dopamine. He was a visiting scholar at the Gastby Computational Neuroscience Unit at the University College of London working under the guidance of Peter Dayan during the winter of 2003. In 2004, Aaron began a postdoctoral position with Patricio O’Donnell at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he used multiple electrophysiological techniques to study how dopamine and inhibitory interneurons could shape neural activity in rodent prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens, and how these structures synchronize during decision making. Aaron joined the faculty at the University of Lethbridge in 2009.


  • Ph.D. Northwestern University.
  • M.Sc. Northwestern University.
  • B.Sc. University of Cincinnati.

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 (aaron.gruber@uleth.ca) if you are interested in joining our research team as a student, post-doc or collaborator.

Recent Publications

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Euston, D.R., Gruber, A.J., McNaughton, B.L. (2012). “The Role of Medial Prefrontal Cortex in memory and decision making”. Neuron, 76 (6), 1057-1070.
  4. Jones, J.L, Esber, G.R, McDannald, M.A., Gruber, A.J., Hernandez A., Mirenzi A., and Schoenbaum G. (2012), “The Orbitofrontal Cortex is Required When Behaviour and Learning is Based on Inferred but Not Cached Value”. In press, Science.
  5. Gruber, A.J. and McDonald, R.J. (2012) Context, emotion, and the strategic pursuit of goals: interactions among multiple brain systems controlling motivated behavior. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 6:50. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2012.00050
  6. 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.
  7. Niwa, M., Kamiya, A., Murai, R., Kubo, K., Gruber, A. J., Tomita, K., Lu, L., Tomisato, S., Jaaro-Peled, H., Seshadri, S., Hiyama, H., Huang, B., Kohda, K., Noda, Y., O’Donnell, P., Nakajima, K., Sawa, A., and Nabeshima, T. (2010). Knockdown of DISC1 by in utero gene transfer disturbs postnatal dopaminergic maturation in the frontal cortex and leads to adult behavioral deficits. Neuron, 65(4), 480-9, 2010.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.