Donita Robinson, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry
Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies
The brain is adept at identifying and obtaining rewards such as food, sex and alcohol. We study neural activity in corticostriatal circuits of the rat that are crucial to this motivated behavior. Our goal is to understand how addictive drugs, such as alcohol and nicotine, alter corticostriatal circuit activity both acutely and persistently, especially when drug exposure occurs during adolescence. To examine corticostriatal activity, we use a variety of complimentary approaches: electrochemistry to measure real-time dopamine fluctuations; electrophysiology to monitor neuronal firing patterns; optogenetics to manipulate neuronal activity; and resting-state functional MRI to assess functional connectivity across brain regions of interest. Behavioral measurements include instrumental and Pavlovian conditioning, with a focus on how drug exposure, such as binge alcohol during adolescence, alters behavioral flexibility in response to changing circumstances or reward value. The Robinson lab works closely with the lab of Dr. Charlotte Boettiger, who studies the same neural circuits and similar behavioral processes in humans, in order to design our rodent studies to gain translational value.
Sey NYA, Gómez-A A, Madayag AC, Boettiger CA, Robinson DL. Adolescent intermittent ethanol impairs behavioral flexibility in a rat foraging task in adulthood. Behav Brain Res. 2019 Nov 5;373:112085. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2019.112085. Epub 2019 Jul 15. PubMed PMID: 31319133; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6682461.
Crews FT, Robinson DL, Chandler LJ, Ehlers CL, Mulholland PJ, Pandey SC, Rodd ZA, Spear LP, Swartzwelder HS, Vetreno RP. Mechanisms of Persistent Neurobiological Changes Following Adolescent Alcohol Exposure: NADIA Consortium Findings. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2019 Sep;43(9):1806-1822. doi: 10.1111/acer.14154. Epub 2019 Aug 14. Review. PubMed PMID: 31335972; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6758927.
Stringfield SJ, Madayag AC, Boettiger CA, Robinson DL. Sex differences in nicotine-enhanced Pavlovian conditioned approach in rats. Biol Sex Differ. 2019 Jul 17;10(1):37. doi: 10.1186/s13293-019-0244-8. PubMed PMID: 31315660; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6637589.
Elton A, Dove S, Spencer CN, Robinson DL, Boettiger CA. Naltrexone Acutely Enhances Connectivity Between the Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex and a Left Frontoparietal Network. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2019 May;43(5):965-978. doi: 10.1111/acer.13999. Epub 2019 Apr 8. PubMed PMID: 30848494; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6528472.
Gómez-A A, Shnitko TA, Barefoot HM, Brightbill EL, Sombers LA, Nicola SM, Robinson DL. Local μ-Opioid Receptor Antagonism Blunts Evoked Phasic Dopamine Release in the Nucleus Accumbens of Rats. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2019 Apr 17;10(4):1935-1940. doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00437. Epub 2018 Nov 6. PubMed PMID: 30388365; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6677254.
Broadwater MA, Lee SH, Yu Y, Zhu H, Crews FT, Robinson DL, Shih YI. Adolescent alcohol exposure decreases frontostriatal resting-state functional connectivity in adulthood. Addict Biol. 2018 Mar;23(2):810-823. doi: 10.1111/adb.12530. Epub 2017 Jul 9. PubMed PMID: 28691248; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5760482.