Hank Wang Rose Hills
Biological Responses to Motivation and Projections from the NAc
Understanding the neurobiology of cue-driven behaviors is important given that they play a critical role in substance abuse and binge eating disorders, particularly with cues such as drug paraphernalia and palatable food. Previous research suggests that these environmental cues and outcomes of these actions are represented in cortical brain structures. Additionally, ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons are involved in assigning values to these cues, which also works in coordination with the prefrontal cortex, ventral hippocampus, and amygdala. The nucleus accumbens (NAc) is connected to all the aforementioned regions, utilizing its connections to many different regions to iterate and select appropriate actions and inhibitions. The goal of my proposed research project is to examine anatomical organization and functional role of different inputs to the NAc. Because previous research has shown that different subregions within the NA have distinct functions and anatomical connections (De Jong et al, 2019), it will be important to take this heterogeneity into consideration. Furthermore, because the NAc contains two major classes of GABAergic neurons, a major goal will be to investigate how these different subpopulations integrate dopaminergic and glutamatergic signals in distinct regions of the NAc during reward seeking behavior. Specifically, I will focus on hippocampus input to the medial and lateral NAc subregions. I will do this by utilizing approaches that will allow me to study both the anatomy and function of these inputs.