The overarching research interest in my laboratory is to understand the neurobiology of motivation, reward, and learning. We seek to understand how learning-induced changes in neurobiology shape goal-directed/motivated behavior and habit formation. We investigate the function of specific receptors (e.g., nicotinic receptors) and rapid neurotransmitter signaling (particularly interactions of dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine) under normal learning conditions and in neuropsychiatric disorders like drug addiction, anxiety, and depression.
Neural Signatures Conferring Susceptibility to Drug Addiction. One ongoing project in my lab is to understand biological and environmental factors that either predispose or predict vulnerability to drug abuse and drug addiction. The ultimate goal is to outline receptor and neurochemical signaling differences between individuals who readily abuse drugs and individuals who refrain from drug intake despite having access to the drug. Biological differences that alter the motivation to abuse drugs across individuals may highlight therapeutic avenues for the treatment of drug addiction or biomarkers for vulnerability to addiction.
Circadian Control of Learning, Motivation, and Addiction. We are researching drug administration, pavlovian conditioning, and incentive motivational differences that manifest within an individual across time-of-day and light/dark cycles. We examine the corresponding receptor/neurochemical differences that underlie this variation. The innate biological differences that alter the motivation to abuse drugs across time within an individual may highlight therapeutic avenues for the treatment of drug addiction or biomarkers for vulnerability to addiction.
Developmental Effects (Adolescent to Adulthood) of drugs of abuse on Limbic Brain Circuits and Motivated Behavior. The goal of this project is to understand the development of mesolimbic dopamine signaling and noradrenergic signaling in extended amygdala circuits such as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). We also seek to understand the long-term influence of adolescent and adult nicotine exposure on these brain regions as well as how these changes increase in anxiety and mediate relapse to nicotine and alcohol addiction.
Educational Program Involvement
Graduate Programs in Neuroscience
Program Research Interest: Addiction and Substance Abuse, Behavioral and Systems Neurobiology, Development and Plasticity, Molecular Neurobiology, Neurological Disease and Aging, Neuropharmacology, Sensory Neurobiology
Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology PhD
Program Research Interest: Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Cardiovascular Physiology and Hypertension, Regenerative Medicine, Neuro- and Behavioral Pharmacology, Cancer Therapeutics Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism Lifespan Physiology.