The overall goal of our research is to further elucidate the neurobiology of reward and motivation. Behaviors that are considered rewarding behaviors include natural behaviors such as sexual behavior, aggression, and food intake. Interestingly, a similar circuitry in the brain that regulates natural reward is also involved in drug addiction and other behaviors that are compulsive in nature. Therefore, by understanding how the brain regulates natural rewarding behavior, we may reach a better understanding of what is different in the brain's control of addiction. Our lab studies male sexual behavior and utilizes rodent models. Our research has four main focuses:
In addition to the rodent studies we also study alterations in the reward pathways in an animal model for the endocrine disorder polycystic ovary syndrome. Specifically, we study changes in the mesolimbic dopamine pathway following prenatal testosterone exposure in female sheep.
Our research utilizes a multidisciplinary approach by combining a diversity of techniques, including behavioral analysis, pharmacological and genetic manipulations, cellular imaging, neuroanatomical techniques, confocal and light microscopic analyses, and molecular approaches (including micro array, real time PCR, in situ hybridization, and western blot analysis).