Laboratory of Neuropsychopharmacology

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The Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory was established on the third floor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences in 2008 by Dr. Lynn Wecker, Professor of Psychiatry & Neurosciences and Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology. The goal of this Laboratory is to investigate the relationship between brain and behavior, with an emphasis on the etiology and treatment of addictive behaviors and ataxia. Multidisciplinary approaches are used to elucidate how age, drugs of abuse, and environmental and genetic factors affect both brain chemistry and behavior.

Current studies include:

  • elucidating the effects of sustained nicotine exposure on the function and expression of neuronal nicotinic receptors through phosphorylation/dephosphorylation mechanisms
  • investigating the ability of nicotinic receptor agonists to improve balance and coordination in ataxia in laboratory animals
  • understanding how experiences during the adolescent period affect brain development and the expression of behaviors during adulthood and testing the hypothesis that adolescents are more prone to developing nicotine and alcohol addictions than adults by virtue of adolescent specific changes in motivational circuitry that are vulnerable to alterations by drug exposure
  • understanding the molecular and neurochemical factors that link the high sensation-seeking phenotype with an increased vulnerability to developing nicotine and alcohol addictions
  • determining the role of neuronal nicotinic receptors in mediating both nicotine and alcohol addiction, and how perturbations in receptor expression during adolescence can predispose the adult brain to drug-seeking behavior