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Optogenetics Drug Addiction
Drug addiction results from neural plasticity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), an area of the brain’s reward system, in which higher levels of dopamine are expressed. Research suggests that decreased activity of inhibitory neurons (specifically, GABAergic neurons) in the VTA could cause the hyperactivity of dopaminergic cells in the VTA and thus mediate opiate addiction. However, little additional research has been performed to evaluate plasticity of VTA GABA neurons and the role they play in addiction.
Why are VTA GABAergic cells inhibited and how?
- We hypothesize that inhibitory inputs onto GABA neurons in the VTA directly affect the degree of dopamine inhibition.
- We additionally hypothesize that GABAergic neurons of the lateral hypothalamus (LH) are a source input that extends into the VTA and inhibits VTA GABAergic neurons
To test our hypotheses, we have isolated GABAergic input sources to the VTA using optogenetics in mice. Specifically, we have assessed the plasticity of GABAergic neurons onto VTA GABA cells that receive input from GABA neurons in the LH, an area that has not been previously studied with regards to addiction. Identifying plasticity of VTA GABA neurons will allow us to target new areas involved in opiate addiction.
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Bird, D.; Brown, Scott Kent III; Hastings, T.; and Edwards, J., "Understanding Drug Addiction Through Optogenetics" (2020). Library/Life Sciences Undergraduate Poster Competition 2020. 6.
Physiology and Developmental Biology
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