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.
Adolescent alcohol exposure decreases frontostriatal resting-state functional connectivity in adulthood. Broadwater MA, Lee SH, Yu Y, Zhu H, Crews FT, Robinson DL, Shih YI. Addiction biology. 2017.
Partial lesion of dopamine neurons of rat substantia nigra impairs conditioned place aversion but spares conditioned place preference. Lima BF, Ramos DC, Barbiero JK, Pulido L, Redgrave P, Robinson DL, Gómez-A A, Da Cunha C. Neuroscience. 2017; 349:264-277.
Sex and Adolescent Ethanol Exposure Influence Pavlovian Conditioned Approach. Madayag AC, Stringfield SJ, Reissner KJ, Boettiger CA, Robinson DL. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2017 Feb 14. doi: 10.1111/acer.13354. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:28196273
Orbitofrontal participation in sign- and goal-tracking conditioned responses: Effects of nicotine. Stringfield SJ, Palmatier MI, Boettiger CA, Robinson DL. Neuropharmacology. 2016 Dec 22;116:208-223. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2016.12.020. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:28012948
Adolescent Alcohol Exposure Persistently Impacts Adult Neurobiology and Behavior. Crews FT, Vetreno RP, Broadwater MA, Robinson DL. Pharmacol Rev. 2016 Oct;68(4):1074-1109. Review. PMID:27677720