Bravo, Christian, PhD

Joint Appointment
Assistant Professor at Department of Psychiatry
Dr. Christian Bravo

Contact Info

Research Interest:

Prefrontal amygdala interactions, fear conditioning, active avoidance, cognitive neuroscience.

The labs mission is to:

  1. increase understanding of how the brain overcomes fear;
  2. train effective scientific thinkers who value communication and collaboration; and
  3. increase neuroscience practice in historically underrepresented countries.

Our lab studies the mechanisms of emotional regulation focusing on extinction of conditioned fear.  Much of what is known about extinction comes from animal models using Pavlovian fear conditioning, where a tone stimulus is paired with a shock.  One subregion of the prefrontal cortex, the infralimbic cortex (IL), is necessary for fear extinction (fear inhibition) whereas another mPFC subregion, the prelimbic cortex (PL), is necessary for fear expression.  We suggest that IL inhibits fear by inhibiting amygdala output, whereas PL drives fear by increasing amygdala output.  We examine these and related areas in fear conditioning as well as active avoidance of fear conditioned stimuli, using a variety of experimental techniques in behaving rats: cannulation of specific drugs, electrical stimulation, multichannel unit recording, immunocytochemistry, optogenetics, and computational modeling.  Our research is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, and is relevant to the treatment of anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Present Funding

NIH R01, R00

Selected Publications

  • Stephenson-Jones M, Bravo-Rivera C, Ahrens S, Furlan A, Xiao X, Fernandes-Henriques C, Li B (2020)  Opposing Contributions of GABAergic and Glutamatergic Ventral Pallidal Neurons to Motivational Behaviors. Neuron. 2020 Mar 4;105(5):921-933.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.12.006. Epub 2020 Jan 13. PMID: 31948733; PMCID: PMC8573387.
  • Bravo-Rivera C, Sotres-Bayon F (2020) From Isolated Emotional Memories to Their Competition During Conflict. Front Behav Neurosci. 2020 Mar 12;14:36. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00036. PMID: 32226364; PMCID: PMC7080848.
  • Diehl MM, Bravo-Rivera C, Quirk GJ (2019) The study of active avoidance: A platform for discussion. Neurosci Biobehav Rev Dec; 107:229-237 doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.09.010. PMID: 31509767
  • Martínez-Rivera FJ, Bravo-Rivera C, Velázquez-Díaz CD, Montesinos-Cartagena M, Quirk GJ (2018) Prefrontal circuits signaling active avoidance retrieval and extinction. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2018 Sep 27. doi: 10.1007/s00213-018-5012-7. PMID: 30259076
  • Diehl MM, Bravo-Rivera C, Rodriguez-Romaguera J, Pagan-Rivera PA, Burgos-Robles A, Roman-Ortiz C, Quirk GJ (2018) Active avoidance requires inhibitory signaling in the rodent prelimbic prefrontal cortex. Elife. 2018 May 31;7. pii: e34657. doi: 10.7554/eLife.34657 PMID: 29851381
  • Bravo-Rivera C, Diehl MM, Roman-Ortiz C, Rodriguez-Romaguera J, Rosas-Vidal LE, Bravo-Rivera H, Quiñones-Laracuente K, Do-Monte FH (2015) Long-range GABAergic neurons in the prefrontal cortex modulate behavior. J Neurophysiol. 2015 Sep;114(3):1357-9. doi: 10.1152/jn.00861.2014. Epub 2014 Dec 17. PMID: 25520436; PMCID: PMC4556857.
  • Bravo-Rivera C, Román-Ortiz C, Montesinos-Cartagena M, Quirk GJ (2015) Persistent active avoidance correlates with activity in prelimbic cortex and ventral striatum. Jul 15 2015 Front Behav Neurosci 9:184.
  • Quiñones-Laracuente K*, Hernández-Rodríguez MY, Bravo-Rivera C, Meléndez RI, Quirk GJ (2015) The effect of repeated exposure to etanol on pre-existing fear memories in rats. Psychopharmacology, in press (PMID:26194914).
  • Bravo-Rivera C, Roman-Ortiz C, Brignoni-Perez E, Sotres-Bayon F, Quirk GJ (2014) Neural structures mediating expression and extinction of platform–mediated avoidance. J. Neurosci. 34:9736-9742.
  • Pendyam S, Bravo-Rivera C, Burgos-Robles A, Sotres-Bayon F, Quirk GJ, Nair SS (2013) Fear signaling in the prelimbic-amygdala circuit: A computational modeling and recording study.  J. Neurophysiology 110:844-861.
  • Mueller D, Bravo-Rivera C, Quirk GJ (2010) Infralimbic D2 receptors are necessary for fear extinction and extinction-related tone responses. Biol Psychiatry 68(11):1055-1060.