Primary Appointment: Associate Professor, Anesthesiology
Secondary Appointment: Associate Professor, Pharmacology
Mail Stop B112
12700 E. 19th Avenue, room P15-7490D
Aurora, Colorado 80045
Telephone: (303) 724-3933
Preclinical behavioral pharmacology using rodent self-administration models of addiction, optogenetic and chemogenetic dissection of neural circuit function, neural circuitry and mechanisms underlying extinction memory, and the intersection of aversion and reward in systems neuroscience.
The main goal of our research is to identify the neural circuits controlling learned behaviors, primarily those controlling drug seeking and fear. We are especially interested in understanding how these circuits change when an animal learns to inhibit a previously learned behavior, through a process called extinction learning. Toward these ends, we use self-administration addiction models, as well as models of conditioned fear, in rats. We have discovered the infralimbic prefrontal cortex is a key brain region responsible for the inhibition of both drug seeking and fear after extinction learning.
Therefore, much of our work focuses on neuroanatomical inputs and outputs to/from this brain region. We use optogenetic and chemogenetic viral strategies to manipulate neuronal activity within defined neural pathways and cell types. We are also using fiber photometry to record neuronal population activity using virally transduced calcium sensors (GCaMP, RCaMP) in vivo during behavioral tasks. In addition to these techniques, the lab also routinely uses immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy to visualize and image the neurons we manipulate, as well as perform neuroanatomical tracing and Fos expression analyses (Fos = a biochemical marker for neuronal activation).
In sum, we are constantly seeking new methods to artificially boost activity in extinction neural circuits as potential therapeutics for addiction and posttraumatic stress disorder.We are also engaged in translational applications of this work through our bioengineering program.