Drugs & Addiction in Learning & Decision-Making – Geoffrey Schoenbaum, NIH IRP Scientist

Drugs & Addiction in Learning & Decision-Making – Geoffrey Schoenbaum, NIH IRP Scientist


>>So the lab’s basically
a psychology based lab, so what we do is we study
associative learning and decision making, think
of it sort of as judgment, and the neural circuits that
mediate those processes. There’s good evidence that
addictive drugs generally and psycho-stimulus in particular cause long lasting
changes in these brain areas. So it’s sort of a
reasonable hypothesis to say that at least part of what’s
reflected in addiction is due to drug induced changes
in these areas and how they do their job right? So if we can understand
their basic job better, how they do that job, then we
can understand how drug induced changes might modify that. So if we study rats, not because
we’re fundamentally interested in what rats do but because
they provide a nice model system for humans, a lot of the
same neural circuits exist in rodent species
that are present in humans and also monkeys. The lab’s heavily focused on
having really good behaviors that isolate cognitive functions
that we think are important and then we study
the brain circuits that mediate these cognitive
functions using [inaudible] recording or recording
neural activity from brains of awake, baby animals. We combine that with legions,
pharmacological manipulations and now we’re starting to
get into fancier approaches that use some of these genetic
tools people have developed. But really the magic in the
lab I think is the behaviors that we develop. This is a surgical suite where
we do electrode implantations, legions, things like that. This is Dr. [inaudible] post doc
extraordinaire on the job market in case anybody wants
to hire him. [Laughing] And then the
rest of the lab is divided up into little rooms that
we do the behavioral testing and so this is just some
examples of our equipment. So a lot of the tests we do
involve tasks the animals do using odors. Odors are something rats
are really good at using and so this is an apparatus
that allows us to deliver odors in a really controlled
way and use those as cues in different tasks. And then the other thing
we’re doing in addition to the [inaudible]
recording is we’ve started to do something called
[inaudible], which is what we’re
doing in these boxes. Again the behaviors are all the
same it’s just the computers below that measure signals, that
would be different in this case, we’re not recording
[inaudible] activity, we’re actually recording
dopamine release, so it’s a way to record dopamine release
in real time that has sort of been an exciting edition
to behavioral neural science, so we started to pick
this up from the lab. The [inaudible] form is
what we see when we isolate, when we’ve isolated
a dopamine neuron, a sort of an upward deflection
initially and then sort of Y poly-phasic kind of
shape; that’s notable. We don’t see very many of those. We typically get one
maybe one per rat per week in the experiment and so it’s
exciting when we see them. The point of the experiment is
really to record those neurons and to ask specifically how the
firing of those neurons changes when we give the animals cues that have not been directly
paired with a reward, the predictor award,
through inference and to see whether they
respond to that or not. So this would test
an interesting idea. In the fields that the dopamine
neurons theory shouldn’t really know about rewards that have
not been directly experienced and so we think that might not
be correct so this will allow us to test that hypothesis.

1 thought on “Drugs & Addiction in Learning & Decision-Making – Geoffrey Schoenbaum, NIH IRP Scientist”

  1. NIH IRP (Intramural Research Program at the National Institutes of Health)

    "It really comes down to an inability to use information to control behavior, and that’s something we can study in really simple ways.” http://bit.ly/1qHMqkX

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