Linking Cell Type to Disease: Mapping Gene Expression and Neural Activity in Pathological Reward Processing

2020 Seed Grant
Emily L. Sylwestrak, Ph.D.
University of Oregon

Women’s Council Seed Grant

Survival often hinges on learning how to avoid threats and how to obtain “rewards”, such as food, water, and mating opportunity. The brain has evolved to quickly learn what actions lead to a reward, increasing the motivational drive to perform those actions and generating a perceived pleasure when obtaining the reward. The neural pathways that drive reward learning can be hijacked by drugs of abuse, often by acting on very specific cells. For example, morphine acts directly on only about 2% of neurons in the brain, but it has a devastatingly powerful effect on behavior in addiction. Our research looks at function of different types of neurons as animals seek out rewards in the environment and how that changes in addiction. We look at both neurons that are directly or indirectly modulated by opiates and try to understand how their firing patterns change during chronic morphine, addiction, and withdrawal. This work will help us understand how different types of neurons control reward seeking, why some have an outsized role in addiction, and how we could better target treatments to the most relevant cell types.

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…