Synaptic mechanisms in addiction and anxiety.
Glutamatergic synaptic transmission is the primary means of fast excitatory neural communication in the brain. Modulation of this transmission serves an important role in brain function. For example, long-term potentiation (LTP), a persistent modification of synaptic transmission elicited by bursts of synaptic activity has been postulated to play roles in memory storage. LTP is an appealing candidate for a cellular substrate for memory storage in part because, like memory, it is a lasting change to a transient stimulus. Another brain function that involves a similar lasting change in response to a transient stimulus is the transition from recreational drug use to addiction. Thus, research in my lab is directed toward determining how synaptic transmission is modulated by stress and substances of abuse, and the signal transduction cascades utilized. To accomplish this, we employ a variety of electrophysiological and biochemical techniques in brain slices. Through the use of regulatable systems to overexpress transgenes that interfere with regulation of transmission in key brain regions, studies are also planned to address the roles of modulation of glutamatergic transmission in processes such as addiction and anxiety.