RESEARCH OVERVIEW:

My research program studies the neurobiological systems that mediate motivated behavior. Motivation, or rather the decision of ‘to do’ or ‘not to do’, is modulated by both one’s internal state as well as by external factors.  For example, the decision to get a cup of coffee is influenced by thirst (internal state) and by coffee-related cues like an empty mug or a coffee shop logo (external factors). Psychiatric disorders, such as drug addiction and depression, can be characterized by alterations in motivational processes resulting from changes both in one’s internal state, along with how external factors influence one’s behavioral actions.


A primary emphasis of my research is to determine how stress influences motivated behavior, focusing on the function of the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system under normal conditions and in models of addiction and depression.  My multidisciplinary research approach uses both in vivo and in vitro preparations, and utilizes a variety of experimental techniques, including fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, pharmacogenomics, optogenetics, and electrophysiology. The ultimate goal of this research is to identify and reverse the neural adaptations that underlie the aberrant motivational processes in psychiatric disorders.