Research in my laboratory employs state-of-the-art methods to explore the contribution of defined neural circuits to behavior with the goal of understanding the pathological changes that occur in these circuits as a consequence of mental illness. My work spans a variety of techniques including immunocytochemistry, neural circuit tracing, ex vivo brain slice patch clamp studies as well as in vivo optogenetic and behavioral approaches. The general focus is on studying the neural circuits that mediate motivation and reward. Currently, we are investigating midbrain dopamine neurons and their role in substance abuse. Another major focus in my lab is on elucidating neural circuits underlying mood disorders (e.g., major depression). Ultimately, my goal is to identify and define suitable targets within complex neural circuits that that will lead to the development of highly‐specific therapeutic intervention for mental illness. Drugs that selectively target neural circuits or cells, defined by their anatomical or biochemical properties, may also reduce the occurrence of unwanted side effects which are currently associated with these treatments.
Research Expertise and Interest
neuroscience, Optogenetics, dopamine, addiction, depression
December 10, 2018
For decades, psychologists have viewed the neurotransmitter dopamine as a double-edged sword: released in the brain as a reward to train us to seek out pleasurable experiences, but also a “drug” the constant pursuit of which leads to addiction.