Addictive Behaviors – Brain Reward Mechanisms

The Role of beta2* Nicotine Receptors in Natural Reward Mechanisms
2010 Seed Grant
Anis Contractor, Ph.D.
Department of Physiology
Northwestern University

Nicotinic receptors are widely expressed in the brain, modulating many neuronal processes and contributing to neuropathologies such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. We have found that a mutation in one of the receptor subunits alters the response to natural reward stimuli. Because the same neural pathways are involved in natural rewards (such as food, sex and exercise), and addictive processes in response to drugs of abuse, it is possible that these receptors are central to the development of addictive processes. In this study we will use genetically altered mice to determine whether nicotinic receptors play a significant role in natural reward, and map the specific brain circuits where these receptors may exert their actions. These studies will give insight into the biological underpinnings of reward mechanisms in the brain and may provide new targets for the treatment of addictive behaviors.

Other Grants

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The Role of Microglial Lysosomes in Selective Neuronal Vulnerability
Synapses, the sites of signaling between neurons in the brain, play essential roles in learning, memory, and the health of neurons themselves. An enduring mystery is why some neurons are…
How the Nervous System Constructs Internal Models of the External World
As animals navigate their environments, they construct internal models of the external sensory world and use these models to guide their behavior. This ability to incorporate ongoing sensory stimuli into…
Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the Orchestra of Movement—Functional Role of Striatal Astrocytes in Health and Disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…