Our laboratory monitors the regulation of the central neurotransmitter systems in animal models of drug abuse and depression. Biogenic amines; neuropeptide synthesis, storage, release, and metabolism; and behavioral effects are studied in these animal models in response to various psychoactive drugs. Molecular alterations in these animal models before, as well as after, treatment are also explored.
The aminergic and peptidergic neurotransmitter systems play important roles in the regulation of brain function. As a consequence, various pathological states (e.g., affective disorders, addiction) as well as psychotropic drugs, are believed to alter the functioning of these systems. In our laboratory, we combine in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro methods. We use mainly three animal models of psychiatric illnesses: 1) Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) rats - a genetic model for depression; 2) Self-administration of cocaine - a model for drug abuse, and 3) Exposure to predator odor-a model for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In vivo microdialysis is used to monitor levels of b-endorphin as well as of monoamines and their metabolites in the extracellular fluid of brain regions involved in these pathologies. Neurochemical findings indicate that interactions between these neurotransmitter systems are correlated with molecular (RNA editing) and behavioral alterations.
New candidates for antidepressants that have a fast onset of action, two novel approaches for intervention in drug addiction and new putative bio-markers for PTSD are being intensively investigated in the laboratory.