Behavioral Neurosciences
Research Laboratory

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Basal Ganglia Neurobiology and the Generation of Appetitive Behaviors

Our research is generally concerned with understanding how the neurotransmitters of the basal ganglia contribute to the generation of appetitive behaviors. We are particularly interested in the impact of the ascending mesencephalic dopamine systems. These groups of neurons, while relatively small, project to a large number of forebrain sites and are known to profoundly influence motor and affective behaviors. We are interested in determining how these systems interact with others to produce such effects and how these neurotransmitter interactions are changed when an organism is exposed to pharmacological and environmental stimuli. Exposing rats repeatedly to psychotropic drugs or various environmental conditions leads to different forms of plasticity including the induction and eventual expression of sensitization (reverse tolerance) in mesolimbic dopamine and glutamate neurotransmission.

Currently, our research is aimed, first, at determining how this sensitization is produced and expressed and, second, at understanding how such changes may influence the expression of various behaviors in the rat. In the first case, we are using a variety of behavioral, biochemical, genetic and neuropharmacological approaches to determine how dopamine and glutamate neurotransmission become enhanced (transmitter release, receptor regulation and function) and to characterize the post-receptor signaling pathways in forebrain that are implicated in these neuroadaptations. In the second, we are investigating the relation between these forms of neuroplasticity and an organism's predisposition to display enhanced levels of various appetitive behaviors. In particular, we are assessing the extent to which a number of manipulations, known to produce or mimic enhanced dopamine and glutamate neurotransmission promote psychotropic drug seeking and self-administration in rats.


UCMC The University of Chicago Medical Center
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neurosciences
5841 S. Maryland Ave., MC 3077
Chicago, IL 60637-1470
Last Update: January 2013