The substances that we consume can affect behavior and cognition by ultimately altering the ways in which brain cells communicate with one another. The work in my laboratory analyzes the impact that addictive drugs, such as prescription opioid painkillers and alcohol, have on synaptic plasticity in two different brain regions. We study the dorsal striatum, a brain region involved in the control of our actions, as well as the insular cortex, a brain region involved in self-awareness. We use cutting-edge tools such as optogenetics, mutant mice, electrophysiology, and mouse models of drug abuse. We hope that by understanding how these substances alter normal neuronal communication that we can lay the groundwork for future discoveries to identify new therapeutics for treating drug abuse.
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