Unraveling the role of neuromodulators in synaptic function and circuit formation.
Research in our laboratory focuses on interactions between neurotransmitters within defined neural circuits in the reward system. Specifically, we ask how synaptic transmission instructs circuit formation and refinement over the lifespan, and ultimately how it contributes to motivated behavior in health and disease. Dopamine and endogenous opioids are neuromodulators that interact and influence plasticity in several brain areas implicated in reward-learning and motor activity. However, their role in the initial wiring and subsequent pruning of neural circuits is poorly understood. We use a combination of genetic, imaging, electrophysiological, and behavioral approaches to understand how dopamine and opioids regulate development of reward circuitry, with the ultimate goal of developing therapies to normalize circuit function and treat psychiatric disease.
We use a variety of experimental approaches, including:
Patch clamp electrophysiology
Acute and chronic in vivo electrophysiology
Behavioral assays of decision making, reward- and depression-related behavior in mice
Neuroanatomy with viral-genetic tracing
Neuroimaging and confocal microscopy
Calcium imaging with fiber photometry
Intracranial drug delivery, deep brain stimulation and optogenetic manipulations
Department of Anesthesiology, Pain Center Washington University School of Medicine 660 South Euclid Avenue, CSRB 8054 St. Louis, MO 63110