My long-term goal is to establish an independent research program aimed at investigating the underlying pathophysiology of addictive disorders and using this information to guide development of novel treatments. To accomplish this, I plan to model cocaine addiction in rodents and use a combination of genetic, behavioral, and neurophysiological techniques to determine underlying mechanisms and identify candidate therapeutic strategies. The immediate goal of this research proposal is to determine the physiological firing patterns and functional importance of GABAergic interneurons of the nucleus accumbens in addiction-related behaviors such as cocaine conditioned place preference and cocaine self-administration with cue-induced reinstatement. To complement my prior experience with animal behavior and genetic approaches for targeted manipulation of neural activity, the training plan contains several major components. The first of these includes formal training in complex behavioral models of addiction and in vivo neurophysiology/optogenetics techniques used to monitor neuronal activity of specific interneuron types in behaving animals. These training components are necessary not only to carry out the research plan as proposed, but also as skills required for future studies in my own independent laboratory. This will be complemented by training aims designed to expand my knowledge of general neurophysiology and the neurobiology of addiction, as well as a training aim designed to prepare me for practical aspects of laboratory management. Research Project Description: The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is a brain region known to be central to the pathophysiology of cocaine addiction, but its internal operations are poorly understood. Investigating these mechanisms requires studying the NAc at the level of each of its constituent neuronal subtypes. GABAergic interneurons (gINs) represent the subtype of neuron in the NAc that is perhaps most poorly understood in the context of addiction, despite the fact that these cells play key functional roles in other parts of the brain and are thought to be affected in multiple neuropsychiatric disorders. We first propose to test the hypothesis that identified gIN populations in the NAc play important functional roles i addiction-related behaviors by manipulating activity in each of the major gIN subclasses and measuring the effect on mouse behavioral models of cocaine addiction and relapse. We additionally propose to gain further understanding of gIN function by recording neuronal activity from gINs during addiction-related behaviors. These studies will advance our understanding of NAc function in addiction and may lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets. Title of proposal: Functional roles of GABAergic interneurons of the nucleus accumbens in cocaine addiction Specific Aims:
Aim 1 : To test the hypothesis that identified GABAergic interneuron subpopulations in the medial nucleus accumbens shell play functional roles in context-dependent cocaine addiction-related behaviors Aim 2: To determine the physiological firing patterns of each GABAergic interneuron subpopulation in the nucleus accumbens during cocaine self-administration, extinction, and context-induced reinstatement
The goal of this proposal is to advance our understanding of the nucleus accumbens, a brain structure known to be central to cocaine addiction, by studying a specific population of cells known as GABAergic interneurons. Understanding the functional roles of these cells within the nucleus accumbens will improve our understanding of cocaine addiction and could lead to the development of new treatments for this debilitating condition.