Behavioral Neuroscience Lab


We are a systems neuroscience and functional neuroanatomy lab investigating the neuronal basis of fear memory, depression and anxiety. We utilize different anatomical, electrophysiological and behavioral techniques in rats and mice to study specific neuronal subcircuits and differential functions of several basal forebrain nuclei, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), amygdala and hippocampus in the aforementioned affective/cognitive processes. 


We constitute a relatively large research group with many undergraduate and graduate students from diverse academic backgrounds. Check below "Applicants" subtitle, if you are interested in joining our scientific endeavor for a short-term training or a graduate study at Boğaziçi University.


Our lab, established by Reşit Canbeyli in 1994 as the Psychobiology Laboratory, was the first research laboratory to use rodents in Turkey. A recent book by Prof. Canbeyli, published in Turkish, details the foundation of our laboratory by illustrating unique hardships of setting up a pioneering research lab as well as the immense progress made in the field of science in Turkey (ISBN: 9786054787760).



  • Assistant Professor Güneş Ünal, Principal Investigator  

  • Professor Emeritus Reşit Canbeyli, Honorary PI                                         

Research Assistant
  • Alev Ecevitoğlu, Psychobiology

Graduate Students
  • Tuğçe Tuna, Psychobiology
  • Merve Akan, Psychobiology
  • Aybeniz Ece Çetin, Psychobiology
  • Cemal Akmeşe, Cognitive Science

Undergraduate Students
  • Rabia Koç, Psychology
  • Elif Gizem Kain, Psychology
  • Emirhan Albayrak, Psychology
  • Ekin Kaya, Psychology
  • Beyza Güven, Psychology
  • Berk Gönenç, MBG
  • Betül Tamer, English Language & Literature
  • Oğuzcan Nas, Translation 
  • Melisa Pranic, MBG & Psychology (Bahçeşehir University)
  • Nehir Uçar, Psychology (Bilim University)




Asst. Prof. Ünal is always seeking for interested and smart graduate students. In order to carry out graduate-level studies in our group, you can choose to apply to the Department of Psychology for an M.A. in Psychological Sciences or to the Boğaziçi University Cognitive Science (M.A.) Program. It is recommended that you contact Asst. Prof. Ünal ( before you place an application to discuss your specific interest and plans. 

If you are a current undergraduate student interested in neuroscience, you can apply for a 1-3 months summer internship in our lab. You can study towards any degree (medicine, engineering, psychology, MBG, etc.) at any university but you must be on your junior/3rd year or above, having successfully completed an introductory neuroscience/psychobiology course. If you are willing and eligible, please e-mail your CV (1), transcript (2) and a single-page statement of purpose (3) to In addition, a letter of recommendation must be e-mailed to directly by a faculty member of your institution (4). All of these 4 application documents must be received by May 1st to be considered for the upcoming summer term (2019). 

Research Areas


Basal Forebrain Modulation of Acute and Chronic Fear

The medial septal nucleus of the basal forebrain is known to be required for the emergence of hippocampal theta oscillation as well as hippocampal-dependent learning and memory such as trace ey-blink conditioning and spatial navigation. The basal forebrain projections therefore play a significant role in modulating local network computations of this limbic structure. Utilizing selective neuronal inactivation tecniques and a number of different behavioral tasks, we are testing whether a similar basal forebrain modulatory mechanism holds true for the amygdala and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), two closely-related limbic areas orchestrating large-scale limbic networks underlying depression and anxiety, respectively

Basal Forebain Afferents to the Amygdala and the Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis 

Basal forebrain nuclei send cholinergic, glutamatergic, GABAergic and peptidergic projections to several limbic structures underlying diverse forms of memory and affective processes. Combining tract-tracing and immunohistochemistry, we are investigating specific basal forebrain neuronal groups innervating different nuclei of the amygdala and the BNST. We aim to chemogenetically test the function these particular basal forebrain-limbic system projections in several behavioral paradigms. 

The Effects of Environmental Enrichment on Mood and Cognitive Abilities 

Rodent models of environmental enrichment are well-known to increase performance in hippocampal forms of learning. However, the behavioral effects of this paradigm is not clear concerning animal models of depression. Some studies report amelorative effects while others point to an increase in depressive behavior in the Porsolt Forced Swim Test (FST). We aim to differentiate the limbic circuits modified by environmental enrichment and understand their differential roles. 

Antidepressant Effects of Ketamine 

We showed that an anesthetic dose of ketamine, a dissociative non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist, has a prolonged ameliorative effect on behavioral despair, an animal model of depression. We are currently testing the potential ameliorative effect of different doses of ketamine in a recently developed model of depression, namely the Open Space Swimming Test.

Differential Role of the BNST on Animal Models of Depression and Anxiety

Our laboratory was one of the first groups to show that the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a limbic structure mediating chronic stress response via the HPA axis, is involved in behavioral despair. A study in progress aims to generalize our findings by investigating the potential involvement of the BNST in a different animal model of depression, the Open Space Swim Test in both female and male Wistar rats. 

Ameliorative Effects of Light on Behavioral Despair/Depression

Our laboratory showed that a single 12-hour exposure to light during the dark phase of a 12h Light - 12h Dark cycle has an ameliorative effect on behavioral despair. Ongoing research aims to discover the parameters of photic stimulation that will optimize the ameliorative effect of light on depression.

Involvement of the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus in Affective and Cognitive Processes 

Disruption of biological rhythms can have negative consequences for mood and cognitive functions. Our studies investigate the effects of bilateral damage to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a key regulator of circadian rhythms, in male and female rats on behavioral despair, anxiety and navigational learning.

Adaptive Brain-Machine Interface Algorithms

We investigate the spiking patterns in neural ensembles of rat brain in vivo to develop our comprehending of synaptic plasticity in rat motor cortex and advance more efficient Brain Machine Interface algorithms by means of combining machine learning and computational neuroscience. We developed a fully open source real-time data acquisition and visualization program for brain-machine interface applications. The program is designed on Linux operating system with RTAI (Real-Time Application Interface, extension, and the drivers and libraries developed by the COMEDI Project (Linux Control and Measurement Devices Interface, are used for facilitating management of the data acquisition hardware (National Instruments PCI-6070E). 



Unal G, Crump MG, Viney TJ, Éltes T, Katona L, Klausberger T, Somogyi P (2018) Spatio-temporal specialization of GABAergic septo-hippocampal neurons for rhythmic network activity. Brain Struct Funct. DOI: 10.1007/s00429-018-1626-0. 

Viney TJ, Salib M, Joshi A, Unal G, Berry N, Somogyi P (2018) Shared rhythmic subcortical GABAergic input to the entorhinal cortex and presubiculum. eLife DOI: 10.7554/eLife.34395. 

Unal G, Crump MG, Viney TJ, Éltes T, Katona L, Klausberger T, Somogyi P (2018) Spatio-temporal specialization of GABAergic septo-hippocampal neurons for rhythmic network activity. Brain Struct Funct DOI: 10.1007/s00429-018-1626-0.

Samarth P, Ball JM, Unal G, Pare D, Nair SS (2017) Mechanisms of memory storage in a model perirhinal network. Brain Struct Funct 222:183–200.

Bocchio M, Fisher S, Unal G, Ellender TJ, Vyazovskiy V, Capogna M (2016) Sleep and serotonin modulate paracapsular nitric oxide synthase expressing neurons of the amygdala. eNeuro DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0177–16.2016. 

Unal G, Joshi A, Viney TJ, Kis V, Somogyi P (2015) Synaptic targets of medial septal projections in the hippocampus and extra-hippocampal cortices of the mouse. J Neurosci 35(48):15812–15826.

Unal G, Pare J-F, Smith Y, Pare D (2014) Cortical inputs innervate calbindin-immunoreactive interneurons of the basolateral amygdaloid complex. J Comp Neurol 522:1915–1928.

Unal G, Pare J-F, Smith Y, Pare D (2013) Differential connectivity of short- vs. long-range extrinsic and intrinsic cortical inputs to perirhinal neurons. J Comp Neurol 521:2538–2550.

Unal G, Apergis-Schoute J, Pare D (2012) Associative properties of the perirhinal network. Cereb Cortex 22:1318–1332.


Psychobiology Lab Publications

Soyman E, Yilmaz GD, Canbeyli R (2018) Head-turning asymmetry: A novel lateralization in rats predicts susceptibility to behavioral despair. Behav Brain Res. 15(338), 47-50.

Soyman E, Tunckol E, Lacin E, Canbeyli R (2015) Right-but not left-paw use in female rats provides advantage in forced swim tests. Behav Brain Res. 15(293), 162-165.      

Kocaturk M, Gulcur HO, Canbeyli R (2015) Toward building hybrid biological/in silico neural networks for motor neuroprosthetic controlFront Neurorobotics. DOI: 10.3389/fnbot.2015.00008. 

İyilikci O, Aydın E, Canbeyli R (2009) Blue but not red light stimulation in the dark has antidepressant effect in behavioral despair. Behavioral Brain Research.27(6), 395-401.

Schulz D, Aksoy A, Canbeyli R (2008) Behavioral despair is differentially affected by the length and timing of photic stimulation in the dark phase of an L/D cycle. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry, 32(5),1257-1262

Pezuk P, Aydin E, Aksoy A, Canbeyli R (2008) Effects of BNST lesions in female rats on forced swimming and navigational learning. Brain Research.1228,199-207.

Pezuk P, Goz D, Aksoy A, Canbeyli R (2006) BNST lesions aggravate behavioral despair but do not impair navigational learning in rats. Brain Res Bull, 69(4), 416-421.

Yilmaz A, Aksoy A, Canbeyli R (2004) A single day of constant light (L/L) provides immunity to behavioral despair in female rats maintained on an L/D cycle. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry, 28(8), 1261-5.

Aksoy A, Schulz D, Yilmaz A, Canbeyli R (2004) Seasonal variability in behavioral despair in female rats. Int J Neurosci, 114(12), 1513-20

Bozkulak O, Tabakoglu HO, Aksoy A, Kurtkaya O, Sav A, Canbeyli R, Gulsoy M (2004) The 980-nm diode laser for brain surgery: histopathology and recovery period. Lasers Med Sci, 19(1), 41-7.

Bulduk S, Canbeyli R (2004) Effect of inescapable tones on behavioral despair in Wistar rats. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry, 28(3), 471-5.

Tataroglu O, Aksoy A, Yilmaz A, Canbeyli R (2004) Effect of lesioning the suprachiasmatic nuclei on behavioral despair in rats. Brain Res. 1001(1-2), 118-24.

Yilmaz A, Schulz D, Aksoy A, Canbeyli R (2002) Prolonged effect of an anesthetic dose of ketamine on behavioral despair. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 71, 341-4.

Schulz, D & Canbeyli, R (2000) Lesions of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis enhances learned despair. Brain Research Bulletin, 52(2), 83-87.

Gülsoy M, Çelikel T, Kurtkaya Ö, Sav A, Kurt A, Canbeyli R & Çilesiz İ (2000) Stereotaxic Use of the 980nm Diode Laser in Rat Cortical and Subcortical Tissues, in Clinical Lasers and Diagnostics, Proceedings of the SPIE, 243-246.

Gülsoy M, Çelikel T, Kurtkaya Ö, Sav A, Kurt A, Canbeyli R & Çilesiz, İ (1999) Application of the 980 nm diode laser in stereotaxic surgery. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics on Lasers in Medicine and Biology, 5(4), 1090-1094.

Schulz, D & Canbeyli, R (1999) Freezing behavior in BNST-lesioned Wistar rats. J. F. McGinty (Ed.) Advancing from the ventral striatum to the extended amygdala: Implications for neuropsychiatry and drug abuse. New York Academy of Sciences, 877, 728-731.


Contact Info

Address: Boğaziçi Üniversitesi, Mühendislik Fakültesi, Davranışsal Sinirbilim Laboratuvarı, 34342 Bebek, İSTANBUL

E-mail: / Phone: +90 212 359 7334



Psychobiology LaboratoryPsychobiology LaboratoryPsychobiology Laboratory