The Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior Laboratory, founded in 2009, investigates the molecular, biochemical, and cellular mechanisms underlying drug dependence and withdrawal using animal behavioral models with high relevance to the human condition. We include both females and males in our studies because there is striking evidence, both clinically and preclinically, for sex differences in every facet of the addiction cycle.
We are interested in how chronic exposure to drugs of abuse changes the brain at molecular and cellular levels such that drug withdrawal elicits a protracted constellation of negative affective signs. These include depressive- and anxiety-like signs as well as an increased sensitivity to stress and drug-associated cues, all of which work in concert to increase the likelihood of relapse. We focus on specific brain systems because their neural circuits are essential for affect and motivated behavior and become “hijacked” by repeated drug exposure.