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.
Ethanol Exposure History and Alcoholic Reward Differentially Alter Dopamine Release in the Nucleus Accumbens to a Reward-Predictive Cue. Fiorenza AM, Shnitko TA, Sullivan KM, Vemuru SR, Gomez-A A, Esaki JY, Boettiger CA, Da Cunha C, Robinson DL. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2018 Mar 30. doi: 10.1111/acer.13636. PMID: 29602178
Diazepam selectively blocks 50 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations induced in rats by amphetamine. G. de Oliveira Guaita, D. Dalla Vecchia, R. Andreatini, D.L. Robinson, R.K.W. Schwarting, C. da Cunha. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2018 Mar 23. doi: 10.1007/s00213-018-4878-8. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 29572651
Nicotine-enhanced Pavlovian conditioned approach is resistant to extinction of expected outcome. S.J. Stringfield, C.A. Boettiger, D.L. Robinson. Behavioural Brain Research, 343:16-20. PMID: 29407412, PMC in progress [Available on 2019-05-02].
Adolescent alcohol exposure alters frontolimbic resting state connectivity in adult rat brain. M.A. Broadwater, Y. Yu, S.-H. Lee, H. Zhu, F.T. Crews, D.L. Robinson, Y.-Y.I. Shih. (2018) Addiction Biology 23(2):810-823. PMC5760482 [Available on 2019-01-09].
Use of fast-scan cyclic voltammetry to assess phasic dopamine release in rat models of early postpartum maternal behavior and neglect. T.A. Shnitko*, K.D. Mace*, K.M. Sullivan, W.K. Martin, J.M. Johns, D.L. Robinson (2017). Behavioural Pharmacology 28: 648-660. PMC5680131 [Available on 2018-12-01].