My lab at the University of Montana (the NInSEL Lab) examines how animals negotiate social uncertainty. This research falls under the headings of systems neuroscience, social neuroscience, and neuroethology. Our studies are focused on rodents from Chile called degus. We look at behavior during different kinds of social interactions–in particular, those taking place during greetings and reunions–and try to make sense of it in terms of brain computation.


In addition to my social neuroscience research, I work with a number of other scientists in projects ranging from long-term memory to the role of inhibitory neurons in neuropsychiatric illness. Primary investigators on these projects include: Kaori Takehara-Nishiuchi (University of Toronto)Blake Richards (University of Toronto Scarborough), Sheena Josselyn (SickKids Hospital), Carol Barnes (University of Arizona).


Morrissey MD, Insel N, Takehara-Nishiuchi K. Generalizable knowledge outweighs incidental details in prefrontal ensemble code over time. ELife 2017 [pubmed]

Volle j, Yu X, Sun H, Tanninen SE, Insel N, Takehara-Nishiuchi K. Enhancing prefrontal neuron activity enables associative learning of temporally disparate events. Cell Reports 2016 [pubmed]

Park S, Kramer EE, Mercaldo V, Rashid AJ, Insel N, Frankland PW, Josselyn SA. Neural allocation to a hippocampal engram. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016. [pubmed].

Insel N, Pilkiw M, Nobrega JN, Hutchison WD, Takehara-Nishiuchi K, Hamani C. Chronic deep brain stimulation of the rat ventral medial prefrontal cortex disrupts prefrontal coherence.  Experimental Neurology 2015 [pubmed]

Insel N, Frankland PW. Mechanism, function, and computation in neural systems. Behavioural Processes 2014 [pubmed]

Hsiang HL, Epp J, van den Oever M, Yan C, Rashid A, Insel N, Ye L, Niibori Y, Deisseroth K, Frankland P, Josselyn S. Manipulating a “cocaine engram” in mice. Journal of Neuroscience 2014 [pubmed]

Insel N, Barnes CA. Differential activation of fast-spiking and regular-firing neuron populations during movement and reward in the dorsal medial frontal cortex. Cerebral Cortex 2014 [pubmed]

Insel N, Takehara-Nishiuchi K. The cortical structure of consolidated memory: a hypothesis on the role of the cingulate-entorhinal cortical connection Neurobiology of Learning and memory 2013 [pubmed]

Insel N, Patron LA, Hoang LT, Nematollahi S, Schimanski LA, Lipa P, Barnes CA. Reduced gamma frequency in the medial frontal cortex of aged rats during behavior and rest: implications for age-related behavioral slowing. Journal of Neuroscience 2012 32(46):16331-44 [pubmed]

Takehara-Nishiuchi K, Insel N, Hoang LT, Wagner Z, Olson K, Chawla MK, Burke SN, Barnes CA. Activation patterns in superficial layers of neocortex change between experiences independent of behavior, environment, or the hippocampus. Cerebral Cortex 2012 [pubmed]

Insel N, Ruiz-Luna ML, Permenter M, Vogt J, Ericsson CA, Barnes CA. Aging in rhesus macaques is associated with changes in novelty preference and altered saccade dynamics. Behavioral Neuroscience 2008 122(6):1328-42 [pubmed]

Vazdarjanova A, Ramirez-Amaya V, Insel N, Plumier TK, Rosi S, Chowdhury S, Mkhael D, Worley PF, Guzowski JF, Barnes CA. Spatial exploration induces ARC, a plasticity-related immediate-early gene, only in calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II-positive principle excitatory and inhibitory neurons of the rat forebrain. Journal of Comparative Neurology. 2006. 498(3):317-29 [pubmed]

Poe GR, Teed RG, Insel N, White R, McNaughton BL, Barnes CA, Partial hippocampal inactivation: effects on spatial memory performance in aged and young rats. Behavioral Neuroscience 2000 114(5):940-9 [pubmed]