The proposed career development plan is designed to provide the PI with a unique skill set and experience to meet the short-term goal of becoming a productive, independent researcher and long-term goal of becoming a significant contributor to the understanding and treatment of substance abuse disorders. The plan will be carried out at the University of Kentucky, an institution with a rich history of interdisciplinary substance abuse research. The PI will be mentored by Dr.Michael Bardo and co-mentored by Dr. Greg Gerhardt, established experts in neuropsychopharmacology and neurochemistry, respectively. The plan proposes to use enzyme- based microelectrode arrays to uncover the role of sub-second tonic/phasic mesocorticolimbic glutamate release in individual differences in incentive salience/value attribution to reward-related cues and cocaine reinforcement in a preclinical rat model. When a stimulus reliably predicts reward, some animals attribute incentive value to the stimulus, and thus will approach and contact it (sign-trackers);other animals use the stimulus as a simple signal of forthcoming reward, and thus will approach the receptacle into which reward will be delivered (goal-trackers). Recently, it has been demonstrated that differences in sign and goal tracking are related to novelty seeking, impulsivity, initial vulnerability to cocaine reinforcement, and relapse vulnerability. In addition to mesocorticolimbic dopamine, stimulus-reward learning and drugs of abuse are known to alter mesocorticolimbic glutamate signaling. The overall proposed hypothesis is that differences in incentive value attribution are mediated by differential mesocorticolimbic glutamate release upon cue exposure;this differential release is then exacerbated by repeated cocaine self-administration, giving rise to differential substance abuse vulnerability and relapse.
Specific Aim 1 will determine if second-by-second tonic/phasic glutamate signaling is differentially affected by food-associated cues in sign- vs. goal-tracking animals.
Specific Aim 2 will determine the role of dopaminergic receptor function on the expression of sign-/goal- tracking, and underlying tonic/phasic glutamate signaling.
Specific Aim 3 will determine if second-by-second tonic and phasic glutamatergic signaling in sign- and goal-tracking animals changes differentially with repeated cocaine self-administration.
Specific Aim 4 will then determine the role of dopaminergic receptor function on cocaine self-administration and tonic/phasic glutamate signaling in sign- and goal-trackers. Collectively, these results will provide insight into the role of tonic/phasic glutamate signaling in stimulus- reward learning, incentive value attribution to reward-associated stimuli, and cocaine reinforcement, while providing the PI with unique training in neuropsychopharmacology and neurochemistry by experts in both fields.

Public Health Relevance

Although many people may experiment with drugs of abuse, few come to develop a substance use disorders. These individual differences suggest that some people may be more or less prone to develop such disorders. These individual differences may be related to differential attribution of incentive value to reward-related stimuli;the broad goal of this research is to identify the underlying neurochemical basis for individual differences in substance abuse vulnerability, and will be beneficial in identifying novel pharmacological targets for the development of substance abuse pharmacotherapies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Research Transition Award (R00)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
No Study Section (in-house review) (NSS)
Program Officer
Sorensen, Roger
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Kentucky
United States
Zip Code