Overview of Interests
The goal of the Grueter lab research program is to advance the current understanding of the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain region responsible for integrating information from diverse inputs and modifying complex motivated behaviors. Researchers are interested in understanding the involvement of the NAc in adaptive responses to rewarding and aversive stimuli under normal and pathophysiological conditions. Consistent with the Center’s mission, the lab has plans to investigate NAc function in developmental disease models including early adolescent exposure to anesthetics and psychostimulants (in utero) and potentially developmental models of schizophrenia. Specifically, they strive to elucidate the molecular constituents in the NAc that are necessary and sufficient to drive complex motivated behaviors. As part of the mesolimbic dopamine system, the NAc integrates a complex mix of excitatory, inhibitory and modulatory inputs to optimize adaptive motivated behaviors. Dynamic alterations in synaptic transmission within this circuitry are strongly implicated in the development and expression of many neuropsychiatric disorders. Thus, two broad questions we address are: 1) how does in vivo experience such as cocaine exposure, pain, or high fat diet alter the neurocircuitry of the NAc? 2.) What are the synaptic mechanisms underlying the behavioral adaptations to in vivo experience? The approaches they incorporate allow them to thoroughly characterize the synaptic circuitry of the NAc in basal and pathophysiological conditions using a combination of cutting edge techniques in electrophysiology, molecular biology, metabolic phenotyping, optogenetics and behavior. These studies will provide information on how the NAc circuits integrate environmental stimuli and allow for specific behavioral responses. This enhanced understanding of NAc function may provide a basis for a more individualized approach to the treatment of many psychiatric disorders.
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