This laboratory studies the activity of neurons that receive dopaminergic synaptic input during behaviors correlated with dopamine transmission. Our long range goal is to better understand the activity of dopamine's target neurons with respect to reward learning and drug abuse. We record the activity of arrays of single neurons in the striatum of awake, unrestrained rats, in the sensorimotor (putamen) and limbic (accumbens) subregions of the striatum.
Our present models include:
1) Intravenous cocaine self-administration: firing patterns of neurons in accumbens, ventral pallidum and dorsal striatum in relation to conditioned incentive cues that cause relapse to cocaine seeking.
2) Optogenetic identification of striatal neuron subtypes using the cre-recombinase system and channel rhodopsin.
3) Ultrasonic vocalizations of rats, coupled to neural recordings during appetitive or aversive behaviors.
4) Learning dependent changes in the accumbens, as they relate to conditioned approach behavior in a reward (sucrose) probability task.
5) Experience dependent changes in movement-related firing of putamen neurons as a function repeated exposure to cocaine and/or behavioral task.