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Dr Ryan Ward

Dr Ryan Ward, thumbnailDr Ward’s general research area is behavioural neuroscience, with a focus on the neural circuitry underlying cognition-motivation interactions.

Dr Ward received his PhD from Utah State University in 2008. He spent 6 years as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University in New York City, where he explored the behavioural and neurobiological effects of increased striatal dopamine D2 receptor expression in an animal model of schizophrenia. He found deficits in both cognition and motivation. More importantly, motivation interacted with cognition in producing behavioural impairments.

Dr Ward joined the University of Otago as a lecturer in 2014. His current research uses molecular genetic approaches which allow him to target and manipulate specified neural populations and determine their role in the interaction of cognition and motivation. His lab is specifically looking at the interaction between motivation and attention. The nucleus accumbens is critical in motivated behaviour, and participates in a circuit with the basal forebrain and prefrontal cortex. This circuit is crucial to attentional processes and translation of information to adaptive behavioural choices. They hypothesise that the nucleus accumbens is a crucial hub in the interaction between attention and motivation, recruiting basal forebrain attentional machinery and synthesising top down information from prefrontal cortex to produce an adaptive behavioural output.

Understanding the interaction between motivation and cognition is critical to understanding the impairments suffered by patients diagnosed with psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. Cognitive and motivational impairments are the most debilitating aspects of the disease, and interact to produce lifelong functional impairment. This research will clarify the functional circuitry involved in these interactions, and may provide insight into beneficial treatment strategies.

Find out more about Dr Ward's research here

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Publications

Parnaudeau, S., Taylor, K., Bolkan, S. S., Ward, R. D., Balsam, P. D., & Kellendonk, C. (2015). Mediodorsal thalamus hypofunction impairs flexible goal-directed behavior. Biological Psychiatry, 77(5), 445-453. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.03.020

Trifilieff, P., Feng, B., Urizar, E., Winiger, V., Ward, R. D., Taylor, K. M., … Javitch, J. A. (2013). Increasing dopamine D2 receptor expression in the adult nucleus accumbens enhances motivation. Molecular Psychiatry, 18(9), 1025-1033. doi: 10.1038/mp.2013.57

Jensen, G., Ward, R. D., & Balsam, P. D. (2013). Information: Theory, brain, and behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 100(3), 408-431. doi: 10.1002/jeab.49

Parnaudeau, S., O'Neill, P.-K., Bolkan, S. S., Ward, R. D., Abbas, A. I., Roth, B. L., … Kellendonk, C. (2013). Inhibition of mediodorsal thalamus disrupts thalamofrontal connectivity and cognition. Neuron, 77(6), 1151-1162. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.01.038

Ward, R., Gallistel, C. R., & Balsam, P. D. (2013). It's the information! Behavioural Processes, 95, (pp. 3-7). doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2013.01.005

Journal - Research Article

Parnaudeau, S., Taylor, K., Bolkan, S. S., Ward, R. D., Balsam, P. D., & Kellendonk, C. (2015). Mediodorsal thalamus hypofunction impairs flexible goal-directed behavior. Biological Psychiatry, 77(5), 445-453. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.03.020

Jensen, G., Ward, R. D., & Balsam, P. D. (2013). Information: Theory, brain, and behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 100(3), 408-431. doi: 10.1002/jeab.49

Trifilieff, P., Feng, B., Urizar, E., Winiger, V., Ward, R. D., Taylor, K. M., … Javitch, J. A. (2013). Increasing dopamine D2 receptor expression in the adult nucleus accumbens enhances motivation. Molecular Psychiatry, 18(9), 1025-1033. doi: 10.1038/mp.2013.57

Parnaudeau, S., O'Neill, P.-K., Bolkan, S. S., Ward, R. D., Abbas, A. I., Roth, B. L., … Kellendonk, C. (2013). Inhibition of mediodorsal thalamus disrupts thalamofrontal connectivity and cognition. Neuron, 77(6), 1151-1162. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.01.038

Ward, R. D., Kellendonk, C., Kandel, E. R., & Balsam, P. D. (2012). Timing as a window on cognition in schizophrenia. Neuropharmacology, 62(3), 1175-1181. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.04.014

Kahn, J. B., Ward, R. D., Kahn, L. W., Rudy, N. M., Kandel, E. R., Balsam, P. D., & Simpson, E. H. (2012). Medial prefrontal lesions in mice impair sustained attention but spare maintenance of information in working memory. Learning & Memory, 19(11), 513-517. doi: 10.1101/lm.026302.112

Ward, R. D., Simpson, E. H., Richards, V. L., Deo, G., Taylor, K., Glendinning, J. I., … Balsam, P. D. (2012). Dissociation of hedonic reaction to reward and incentive motivation in an animal model of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Neuropsychopharmacology, 37(7), 1699-1707. doi: 10.1038/npp.2012.15

Ward, R. D., Gallistel, C. R., Jensen, G., Richards, V. L., Fairhurst, S., & Balsam, P. D. (2012). Conditioned stimulus informativeness governs conditioned stimulus-unconditioned stimulus associability. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 38(3), 217-232. doi: 10.1037/a0027621

Nevin, J. A., Shahan, T. A., Odum, A. L., & Ward, R. (2012). Delayed matching to sample: Reinforcement has opposite effects on resistance to change in two related procedures. Learning & Behavior, 40(4), 380-392. doi: 10.3758/s13420-011-0059-x

Simpson, E. H., Kellendonk, C., Ward, R. D., Richards, V., Lipatova, O., Fairhurst, S., … Balsam, P. D. (2011). Pharmacologic rescue of motivational deficit in an animal model of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry, 69(10), 928-935. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.01.012

Ward, R. D., Johnson, R. N., & Odum, A. L. (2009). Effects of prefeeding, extinction, and distraction during sample and comparison presentation on sensitivity to reinforcer frequency in matching to sample. Behavioural Processes, 81(1), 65-73. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2009.02.003

Ward, R. D., Simpson, E. H., Drew, M. R., Kandel, E. R., Kellendonk, C., Lipatova, O., … Balsam, P. D. (2009). Impaired timing precision produced by striatal D2 receptor overexpression is mediated by cognitive and motivational deficits. Behavioral Neuroscience, 123(4), 720-730. doi: 10.1037/a0016503

Balsam, P., Sanchez-Castillo, H., Taylor, K., Van Volkinburg, H., & Ward, R. D. (2009). Timing and anticipation: Conceptual and methodological approaches. European Journal of Neuroscience, 30(9), 1749-1755. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06967.x

Ward, R. D., Barrett, S. T., Johnson, R. N., & Odum, A. L. (2009). Nicotine does not enhance discrimination performance in a temporal bisection procedure. Behavioural Pharmacology, 20(1), 99-108. doi: 10.1097/FBP.0b013e3283242fc2

Nevin, J. A., Ward, R. D., Jimenez-Gomez, C., Odum, A. L., & Shahan, T. A. (2009). Differential outcomes enhance accuracy of delayed matching to sample but not resistance to change. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 35(1), 74-91. doi: 10.1037/a0012926

Ward, R. D., & Odum, A. L. (2008). Sensitivity of conditional-discrimination performance to within-session variation of reinforcer frequency. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 90(3), 301-311.

Ward, R. D., & Odum, A. L. (2007). Disruption of temporal discrimination and the choose-short effect. Learning & Behavior, 35(1), 60-70.

Podlesnik, C. A., Jimenez-Gomez, C., Ward, R. D., & Shahan, T. A. (2006). Resistance to change of responding maintained by unsignaled delays to reinforcement: A response-bout analysis. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 85(3), 329-347. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2006.47-05

Ward, R. D., & Odum, A. L. (2006). Effects of prefeeding, intercomponent-interval food, and extinction on temporal discrimination and pacemaker rate. Behavioural Processes, 71(2-3), 297-306. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2005.11.016

Ward, R. D., Bailey, E. M., & Odum, A. L. (2006). Effects of D-amphetamine and ethanol on variable and repetitive key-peck sequences in pigeons. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 86(3), 285-305. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2006.17-06

Odum, A. L., Ward, R. D., Barnes, C. A., & Burke, K. A. (2006). The effects of delayed reinforcement on variability and repetition of response sequences. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 86(2), 159-179. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2006.58-05

Ward, R. D., & Odum, A. L. (2005). Effects of morphine on temporal discrimination and color matching: General disruption of stimulus control or selective effects on timing? Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 84(3), 401-415. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2005.94-04

Odum, A. L., & Ward, R. D. (2004). The effects of morphine on the production and discrimination of interresponse times. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 82(2), 197-212.

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Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Full paper

Ward, R., Gallistel, C. R., & Balsam, P. D. (2013). It's the information! Behavioural Processes, 95, (pp. 3-7). doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2013.01.005

Ward, R. D., Simpson, E. H., Kandel, E. R., & Balsam, P. D. (2011). Modeling motivational deficits in mouse models of schizophrenia: Behavior analysis as a guide for neuroscience. Behavioural Processes, 87(1), (pp. 149-156). doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2011.02.004

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