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Richard Holley Thompson

Adjunct Assistant Professor (Research) of Biological Sciences

Contact Information
Phone: (213) 740-3166
Office: HNB 428



Ph.D. Neurobiology, USC, 4/1997

Postdoctoral Training

Research Associate, University of Southern California, 04/2005-05/2007  
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, 01/2001-03/2005  
Postdoctoral Fellow, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, 08/1997-12/2000  

Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

Non-Tenure Track Appointments

Research Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, 2007-2008   

PostDoctoral Appointments

Research Associate, University of Southern California, 04/2005-05/2007  
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of British Columbia, 01/01/2001-03/01/2005  
Postdoctoral Fellow, Karolinska Institute, 08/01/1997-12/01/2001  

Description of Research

Summary Statement of Research Interests

Broadly speaking, my research interests are centered around a structural analysis of the interactions between neural circuits subserving motivation and other cognitive influences on the selection and initiation of goal-directed behavior. Goal-directed behaviors, such as eating and drinking, are initiated primarily by physiological deficits, conveyed by viscerosensory stimuli. Thus as a class they are initiated by relatively discrete signals that reflect the goal-object. Moreover, the incentive to obtain the associated goal increases with increasing deficit and thus reflects the motivational state. However, ‘motivation’ is difficult to define operationally and the circuits that relate specific sensory stimuli to particular somatomotor responses are poorly understood for complex behaviors such as these. What is known is that these elements converge in the corpus striatum, the input structure of the basal ganglia. In fact, all aspects of brain function are represented in the basal ganglia in that the striatum receives a topographic input from the entire cortical mantle. A role for the basal ganglia in the control of individual movements (as opposed to integrated behaviors) is clear, as evidenced by the profound deficits associated with Parkinson’s disease. However, it is also clear that there are multiple circuits within the basal ganglia, one of which is defined by the sensorimotor cortical inputs, and another by ‘limbic’ cortical regions that are associated with cognitive and visceral-sensorimotor (but not somatomotor) functions. In addition, a functional dissociation is indicated by predominantly cognitive deficits associated with pathology within this part of the basal ganglia. The organization of these circuits are thought to be fundamentally similar. That is, striatal regions are defined by inputs from functionally related cortical areas. These regions then project in parallel to the pallidum, and remain segregated in the projection to the thalamus and return to cortex, each to the cortical area of origin. The immediate implication is that cortical information, regardless of type or modality, is all processed in the same way. Furthermore, it is difficult to reconcile a segregated organization with the integration and coordination necessary for the expression of goal-directed behavior. One potential explanation is that it has been technically impossible to demonstrate this sequence of connections, and thus this organization, directly with currently available methods. For my research, I have developed a circuit-tracing method to directly visualize multiple, sequentially connected brain regions. This method is both a technical innovation and conceptual approach that provides detailed information about specific sets of connections that can be systematically expanded to build more complete descriptions of the extended circuit. Thus, my research experiments involve structural investigation of basal ganglia circuitry, to better understand the organization of the ‘limbic’ circuit and its interaction with other basal ganglia circuits. This is a necessary step if basal ganglia function is ever to be understood as a system, rather than a conglomeration of its parts. This approach is also provides insight into the organization of the connections of the basal ganglia circuits to other systems as well. This will provide a better understanding how ‘global’ functions like motivation and attention are applied to circuits mediating specific behaviors such as eating and drinking. This process of determining the organization of the component circuits, demonstrating the structural basis for the interactions between circuits to form systems and interactions across systems that are a constitutive part of overt behavior, we can eventually move beyond our understanding of the brain as a collection of autonomous functions and see how the brain functions as a unified whole.


Journal Article

Tallis, M., Thompson, R. H., Russ, T., Burns, G. A. (2011). Knowledge synthesis with maps of neural connectivity. Frontiers in Neuroinfromatics.
Thompson, R. H., Swanson, L. W. (2010). Hypothesis-driven structural connectivity analysis supports network over hierarchical model of brain architecture. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Vol. 107 (342010/08/11), pp. 15235-9.
Thompson, R. H., Ménard, A., Pombal, M., Grillner, S. (2008). Forebrain Dopamine Depletion Impairs Motor Behavior in the Lamprey. European Journal of Neuroscience. Vol. 27 (6), pp. 1452-1460.
Burns, G. A., Cheng, W. C., Thompson, R. H., Swanson, L. W. (2006). The NeuARt II system: a viewing tool for neuroanatomical data based on published neuroanatomical atlases. BMC Bioinformatics. Vol. 7, pp. 531.
Thompson, R. H., Swanson, L. W. (2003). Structural characterization of a hypothalamic visceromotor pattern generator network. Brain Res Brain Res Rev. Vol. 41 (2-3), pp. 153-202.
Grillner, S., Cangiano, L., Hu, G., Thompson, R. H., Hill, R., Wallen, P. (2000). The intrinsic function of a motor system--from ion channels to networks and behavior. Brain Res. Vol. 886 (1-2), pp. 224-236.
Thompson, R. H., Swanson, L. W. (1998). Organization of inputs to the dorsomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus: a reexamination with Fluorogold and PHAL in the rat. Brain Res Rev. Vol. 27 (2), pp. 89-118.
Dashti, A. E., Ghandeharizadeh, S., Stone, J., Swanson, L. W., Thompson, R. H. (1997). Database challenges and solutions in neuroscientific applications. Neuroimage. Vol. 5 (2), pp. 97-115.
Risold, P. Y., Thompson, R. H., Swanson, L. W. (1997). The structural organization of connections between hypothalamus and cerebral cortex. Brain Res Rev. Vol. 24 (2-3), pp. 197-254.
Thompson, R. H., Canteras, N. S., Swanson, L. W. (1996). Organization of projections from the dorsomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus: a PHA-L study in the rat. J Comp Neurol. Vol. 376 (1), pp. 143-73.
Buchanan, S. L., Thompson, R. H., Maxwell, B. L., Powell, D. A. (1994). Efferent connections of the medial prefrontal cortex in the rabbit. Exp Brain Res. Vol. 100 (3), pp. 469-83.

Honors and Awards

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, 4/2002-3/2005  
Fogarty International Fellowship, 8/1997-1/1999  

Service to the Profession

Professional Memberships

New York Academy of Sciences, 2007-2012  
Cajal Club, 2006-2011  
Society for Neuroscience, 1993-2011  
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