Our laboratory is interested in dopamine for its broad role in motor and motivational systems including cognition, attention and learning. We use experimental approaches in animals to investigate the synaptic brain circuitry tuned to support these behaviors. We also investigate the related neuroadaptive changes (synaptic plasticity), which may underlie prevalent diseases such as Parkinson's disease, psychosis, schizophrenia, and Tourette's syndrome.
Addiction is a disease of abnormal habits or learned behaviors, Researching addiction provides unique insights into the mechanisms underlying learning and how they influence addictive behavior. Virtually all drugs of abuse, including cocaine, amphetamine, heroin and other opiates, alcohol, nicotine and volatile solvents activate dopaminergic systems in the brain. Current research in our laboratory utilizes in vitro electrophysiology (whole cell patch clamp), calcium neuroimaging and uncaging (flash photolysis) in combination with behavioral self-administration to better understand the role of dopamine in normal and abnormal brain function.