Neural circuits underlying motivated behaviour My research interfaces cellular physiology, pharmacology, and behavior, with the goal of understanding and treating disorders of appetitive motivation such as obesity and addiction. Neuropeptides play a critical role in a number of homeostatic processes, including satiety, sleep/wake cycles, mood regulation, and response to stress. However, chronic drug taking can usurp these normal regulatory processes and profoundly alter motivational behaviour.
The main goal of my research is to understand how synaptic plasticity is modulated by these peptides in brain regions relevant to reward and compulsion, and to understand the behavioral consequences of neuropeptide signaling in both naïve and drug exposed animals.
My lab uses brain slice electrophysiology to elucidate the synaptic and cellular events involved in plasticity of excitatory synapses in ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons from acute animals or animals that have undergone a behavioural paradigm. We also employ immunohistochemistry techniques such as using retrograde labels as well as optogenetics to answer questions related to neural circuitry underlying the physiological effects. Use of these techniques together build a powerful arsenal for answering questions related to obesity and adaptations to drugs of abuse.
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