Effects of nicotine vapor on the adolescent brain
Exposure to nicotine causes long-term changes in the brain that can lead to addiction and dependence.The dramatic increase in adolescent use of e-cigarretes demands an increase on research investigating the effects of nicotin vapor on the unique adolscent brains and their behavior. Research in our lab is investigating how exposure to nicotine vapor during adolsence affect dopamine and acetylcholine signaling in the brain and how these changes affect reward seeking behavior.
How do cues in our environment affect our behavior?
Scientist Ivan Pavlov showed that if a bell was repeatedly paired with a natural reward in time and space, exposure to that bell would gain rewarding properties. Decades of research on this phenomenon has now shown that our brain is constantly associating paired stimuli in our environment and that these associations can affect our behavior in many ways. This is particularly relevant for drug paired cues and relapse. Our lab is investigating how opioid and dopamine signaling work together in the brain to coordinate this learning.
The neurobiology of cost-benefit decision-making
When making a decision we often have to weigh various rewards and any costs that those rewards may come with. Do you spend your tax refund on a big screen for the big game? Or do you invest it for the purchase of your dream home in the future? The dream home sounds much nicer, but having to wait is a cost that devalues that reward, so some may go with the TV. Research in our lab is investigating the role of neuronal sigals, particuarly acetylcholine, in this complex cognitive process that we engage in on a daily basis.