Research & Publications
Our research examines the neurobiological mechanisms of reinforcement learning and motivational control and seeks to identify how these mechanisms are altered in psychiatric illnesses. We are currently investigating the neurobiological processes that underlie the ability of drugs of abuse, reward-associated cues, or ongoing stressors to modulate behavior. In this work, we use an integrative methodological approach that incorporates in vivo electrochemistry (fast scan cyclic voltammetry), rodent behavioral models, cellular and molecular tools, and newly incorporated electrophysiology tools to examine the role of cholinergic, dopaminergic and L-type calcium channel (LTCC) mechanisms in substance use disorders (SUD), mood disorders, and comorbid SUDs and mood disorders.
Our findings show that midbrain cholinergic and LTCC mechanisms powerfully regulate cue-induced drug-seeking behavior and mood disorder-related behavioral phenotypes. Further, our work suggests that LTCCs and cholinergic receptors may serve as potential therapeutic targets for SUDs and mood disorders, like major depressive disorder (MDD). In other work, we are also examining the ability of tobacco product flavor constituents to alter nicotine reward, nicotine aversion, nicotine choice and taking behavior, and nicotine reinforcement through regulation of phasic dopamine signaling. The goals of our research are to provide new insight into the mechanistic bases of complex behaviors associated with psychiatric illness, to inform FDA policy decisions regarding the regulation of flavor constituents in tobacco products, and to identify novel therapeutic targets to treat psychiatric disorders,
Specialized terms: Neurobiology of addiction; In vivo electrochemistry; Behavioral pharmacology; Systems neuroscience; Neurotransmission; Signal transduction
Behavioral Sciences; Electrochemistry; Neurobiology; Psychiatry; Signal Transduction; Substance-Related Disorders