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We are interested in examining how abused drugs affect the brain on a neurobiological level. Specifically, what long-lasting changes do abused drugs produce in the brain that ultimately result in dependence and addiction? Can these changes be minimized or reversed? What makes some individuals vulnerable to addiction while others are resilient? Under what circumstances, and in what brain regions, do drugs produce toxic effects on neurons and other cell types?
Our laboratory investigates basic behavioral and cognitive processes in various species, and their implication in behavioral dysregulation. These processes include learning, timing, choice, and impulsivity. Our research relies heavily on the formulation of quantitative models of learning and behavior, on the design and validation of novel behavioral paradigms, and on the use of animal models.
Our goal is to understand the mechanisms by which stress influences brain plasticity and resilience. The stress response is vital for organism survival and yet, a dysregulated stress response can be deadly. Understanding stress balance will be necessary for optimal health and survival.
The goal of our research is to identify novel pharmacological and behavioral interventions for the treatment of drug abuse, and to explore the neurobiological substrates of addiction. Our work has revealed novel neurobiological mechanisms of nicotine addiction, and has the potential to contribute to the development of novel therapeutic options aimed at reversing nicotine-induced alterations and thus improve smoking cessation outcomes. This work has resulted in translational collaborations to examine clinical efficacy of pharmacotherapeutics in promoting smoking cessation.
The research goals of our laboratory are to characterize the cognitive and brain changes that occur during aging, as well as to develop behavioral and pharmacological strategies to attenuate mnemonic and neurobiological age-related alterations. Towards this goal, one of our primary interests is to determine the roles that sex, hormones, and brain chemistry play in brain function and cognition in young versus aged subjects. Our interests incorporate these goals with relevance to Alzheimer’s disease-related variables, and non-pharmacological approaches to protecting the brain and cognition against age- and neurodegenerative- related changes.
One of our main aims is to determine the effects that hormone therapies used in women have on the brain and its function across the lifespan. For example, we have been studying the effects of Premarin, estradiol, and progestins on cognition and neurobiology in different types of menopause. We are also evaluating hormones in contraceptives for effects on the brain and cognition across the lifespan. Findings demonstrate that estrogen and progesterone can have divergent effects on memory and neurobiology in aging females, and that effects of ovarian hormone loss and replacement are impacted by many parameters including menopause history, temporal specifics, and age.