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Dr Ryan Ward Research Interests

Ryan Ward2

Tele 64 3 479 5660
Email rward@psy.otago.ac.nz

Visit Dr Ward's profile

Dr Ryan Ward’s general research area is behavioural neuroscience, with a particular focus on the neural circuitry underlying motivation, cognition and their interaction. He uses a combination of molecular genetic, pharmacological, and sophisticated behavioural methods to probe the role of cortical and subcortical brain structures in motivational recruitment of cognitive processes in response to reward related cues. His research aims to understand how motivation and cognition interact in normal behavioural function, and what goes wrong in diseases such as schizophrenia. His research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. He is an author on over 30 articles published in international journals. He was the recipient of the Basic Research Dissertation Award and the B.F. Skinner New Researcher Award from Division 25 of the American Psychological Association. He currently serves on the review board of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and has served as a reviewer for multiple other journals.

Ryan received a PhD from Utah State University in 2008. He conducted post-doctoral research in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Columbia University in New York City from 2008-2014. He joined the Department of Psychology as a Lecturer in 2014.

Motivation, cognition, and their interaction

The coordinated interaction between motivation and cognition is critical to daily function, and dysfunction in these areas is symptomatic of a number of psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. The neural circuitry underlying these interactions, however, is unknown. Our work has thus far focused on the contribution of cortical areas which are involved in translating reward related information to adaptive behavioural strategies. We are currently looking at the role of connected areas, such as nucleus accumbens, a subcortical structure heavily involved in motivation and reward-related behaviour. We hypothesize that integration of reward related and cognitive information in nucleus accumbens is critical for the adaptive interaction of motivation and cognition.

Temporal information processing

Temporal information processing is critical to all learning, because any stimuli or events to be learned occur over time (whether seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks). Thus, understanding how the brain represents time and encodes different types of information learned as a function of experience over time is critical to understanding both the psychological and neurobiological basis of learning. We study how the brain extracts this information from the environment, how it is stored, extracted, and translated into adaptive behaviour.

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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

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., 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

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

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

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

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., 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

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., 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

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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