Learning and Addiction

Phasic dopamine in reward-based learning and addiction
2007 Seed Grant
Xiaoxi Zhuang, Ph.D.
The University of Chicago

Dopamine is the common chemical mediator in the brain that mediates all addictive drugs’ rewarding properties. However, the exact role of dopamine in the two key components of reward, incentive motivation and reinforcement learning, has not been determined. This problem has significant implications in prevention and treatment of drug abuse. If dopamine mediates learning, prevention and treatment should involve extinction of learning. If dopamine mediates motivation, prevention and treatment should involve manipulation of the homeostatic motivational system. The proposed project uses a genetic approach in transgenic mice to test the hypothesis that two different activities of dopamine, the baseline tonic activity and the induced phasic activity, mediate motivation and learning respectively.

The total economic cost of drug abuse is more than half a trillion dollars annually. The most cost effective way to reduce that is prevention of drug abuse, treatment of drug abuse and prevention of relapse rather than law enforcement. That requires the understanding of the neurobiological and behavioral basis of drug abuse. One main roadblock in that aspect has been the controversy over the exact role of dopamine in addiction. The proposed project will for the first time test a key hypothesis central to such a controversy and aims to solve such a controversy. These studies will provide essential information needed to guide preventive and treatment approaches. Moreover, our studies will identify a molecular pathway and molecular targets that can be used for the development of pharmacotherapies.

Other Grants

Sarah C. Goetz, Ph.D., Duke University
Uncovering a Novel Role for Primary Cilia in Eph/Ephrin Signaling in Neurons
2022 Seed GrantSarah C. Goetz, Ph.D. Duke University Women’s Council Seed Grant Primary cilia are tiny projections from cells that function like an antenna- they receive and may also send…
Erin M. Gibson, Ph.D., Stanford University
Circadian Regulation of Oligodendroglial Senescence and Metabolomics in Aging
2022 Seed GrantErin M. Gibson, Ph.D.Stanford University The brain consists of two main classes of cells, neurons and glia. Glia make-up more than half of the cells in the brain…
Yvette Fisher, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Dynamic Modulation of Synaptic Plasticity During Spatial Exploration
2022 Seed GrantYvette Fisher, Ph.D.University of California, Berkeley The Virginia (Ginny) & Roger Carlson Seed Grant Cognitive flexibility is critical for appropriately adjusting thoughts and behaviors to meet changing demands…
Byoung Il Bae, Ph.D., University of Connecticut
Unique Vulnerability of Developing Human Cerebral Cortex to Loss of Centrosomal Protein
2022 Seed GrantByoung Il Bae, Ph.D.University of Connecticut Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation Seed Grant The cerebral cortex is the largest and outermost part of the human brain. It is…