18765-Atwood, Brady

Brady K. Atwood, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology


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 drugs of abuse (such as prescription painkillers and alcohol) and obesogenic food (i.e. fast food) have on synaptic plasticity in the dorsal striatum, a brain region involved in the control of goal-directed and habitual actions. The dorsal striatum also plays a significant role in addiction, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and obsessive compulsive disorder, among others. We use cutting-edge tools such as optogenetics, mutant mice, electrophysiology, neurochemistry, and mouse models of drug abuse and obesity. 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 and obesity.

In my personal life, I enjoy cooking, modern art, rock music, and spending time with my wife and three children. I am also a Tolkien and Star Wars nerd.

Titles & Appointments

  • Assistant Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology
  • Education
    2016 POSTDOC National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
    2010 PhD University of Washington
    2005 BS Brigham Young University
  • Research

    I am currently interested in the synapse-specific effects that alcohol and prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone, have on opioid and cannabinoid receptor-mediated synaptic plasticity in the dorsal striatum. I am also interested in the effects that a diet that is high in fat and refined sugar has on these same synapses. I use optogenetics to probe specific inputs to this brain region and also use electrophysiological and neurochemical measurements to determine alterations in synaptic transmission following drug and food exposure. I also am interested in the role that dorsal striatal opioid receptors play in dorsal striatal-mediated behaviors such as habit learning and drug and food consumption.

  • Professional Organizations
    International Narcotics Research Conference
    Research Society on Alcoholism
    Society for Neuroscience

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