Identifying input-specific mechanisms underlying drug-evoked plasticity in the dopamine system

2015 Seed Grant
Stephan Lammel, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

Drug addiction is a major public issue worldwide because it strongly affects a person’s health and places a costly burden upon society. A consistent finding in addiction research is that drugs of abuse elicit long-lasting synaptic changes in the brain’s “reward system”, a neural circuit important for 5 responding to natural rewards such as food and sex. Such pathologic synaptic plasticity represents a form of maladaptive learning that is thought to contribute to the development of the addicted state. A critical step in addiction research is to identify specific synapses in the reward system that are susceptible to drug-evoked synaptic plasticity. To identify these synapses we will combine cutting-edge technologies that allow unprecedented insights into brain structure and function. Our findings will accelerate the development of brain stimulation interventions that selectively target drug-induced changes in the synapses of the brain’s reward system, which may be efficacious in reducing drug use and relapse.