Neurochemistry and Behavior

Work in our laboratory investigates the role of dopamine transmission in normal and pathological mental function (including drug abuse) utilizing multi-disciplinary approaches. We use traditional behavioral paradigms such as operant behavior and classical conditioning as well neuroeconomic approaches to study decision making. During these studies, we monitor dopamine neurotransmission directly using real-time electrochemistry to identify components of dopamine transmission that are altered during behavior or pathology, and apply computational models to these data. We also utilize interference methods including neuropharmacology (systemic administration or site-specific intracranial microinjections), viral-mediated gene delivery and intracranial electrical stimulation. In addition, we work on more simplified preparations to study the molecular mechanisms that are important in the regulation of these neurochemical components. We aim to use the information we have gleaned to target specific proteins and alter dopamine transmission (and behavior), with our long-term goal to develop therapeutic strategies for mental illness.