Laboratory of Learning, Motivation and Drug Addiction

 
 

The ability to learn about rewards – when and where to expect them, for example, or what to do to get them – is a crucial adaptive capacity that higher animals possess.  Furthermore, reward-related learning is implicated in pathologies of motivational processes such as drug addiction.  Our research is focused on the neural and environmental mechanisms underlying reward-related learning, motivation and drug addiction.  We ask questions such as: How do drug-associated stimuli come to elicit drug craving?  How can we use behavioral, environmental or neurobiological strategies to reduce drug seeking?  What are the long-term effects of chronic drug intake on learning and motivation?  What are the neurochemical pathways, and neuroanatomical sites, critical for the acquisition and expression of goal-directed behaviors?  The behavioral paradigms that we use include operant and classical conditioning (e.g., self-administration of drug or food).  These are combined with  neuroscience techniques such as neuropsychopharmacology and immunohistochemistry to investigate how brain manipulations affect goal-directed behavior at the various stages of learning and drug addiction development or how specific behaviors affect brain functioning.  The aim of this research is to enhance our understanding of the relation between brain and goal-directed behavior and to facilitate the development of treatments for addiction.