- Discover the neural circuits and molecular mechanisms that mediate the reinforcing and pleasurable subjective effects of alcohol and other drugs
- Identify the long-term effects of cocaine and alcohol abuse during adolescence
- Identify novel neural targets and validate pharmacological compounds that may be used to treat problems associated with alcohol and drug abuse
Our studies have shown that the limbic system and extended amygdala regulate alcohol-seeking behavior and conditioned discriminative stimulus effects of alcohol. We established that neuropeptide-Y in the hypothalamus modulates excessive alcohol drinking similar to its role in obesity via the Y1 receptor, and that NPY-Y5 receptor blockade reduces the reinforcing effects of alcohol. Also, using gene knockout mice, we have shown that Protein Kinase C-ε regulates alcohol drinking, reinforcement, sensitivity, withdrawal, and mesolimbic dopamine release through enhancement of GABA-A receptor function. Other studies have shown that adolescent exposure to cocaine leads to enhanced vulnerability to the rewarding effects of cocaine during adulthood in mice via activation of the limbic system.