I am Vinod Rao, a PGY-3 resident in MGH-McLean's RCO program. I grew up in Pittsburgh, fell in love with neuroscience as an undergraduate at MIT, and went to Washington University in St. Louis for medical school. While there, I completed a Ph.D. thesis working with Gregory DeAngelis and Larry Snyder studying neural mechanisms of perceptual decision making. My thesis work involved single-unit physiology in behaving primates and computational modeling.
During residency, I decided to continue using physiology to examine neural circuits underlying behavior. During my PGY-1 year, I joined the lab of Dr. Naoshige Uchida in Harvard's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. This lab uses a combination of anatomic, behavioral, physiologic and optogenetic techniques to dissect circuitry in the rodent midbrain related to dopamine function. The RCO program provided me two months during my PGY-2 year where I could be nearly all of my time in the lab (excepting an afternoon each for psychiatry didactics and clinic). During this time I worked on two pilot projects in the lab, recording from behaving mice to examine the relationship between how specific midbrain circuits contribute to reward prediction error coding in VTA dopamine neurons. During my PGY-3, I plan to followup on some of the results from these pilot projects, as well as develop ways to apply these techniques to substance abuse models. Through the RCO program, I get support to block off chucks of time almost daily during much of my PGY-3 year to conduct experiments.