Student working on a research project.

Animal Models Of Incentive Cues In Seeking Natural Rewards And Alcohol

Our laboratory is focused on understanding the neurobiology responsible for motivated behaviors, with the goal of identifying pathways that may serve as potential targets in treating addiction. Environmental or external stimuli (cues) can increase the motivation to consume sweet or fatty foods, or to drink alcohol to excess. This may occur when the cue is repeatedly paired with the food or alcohol, and can lead to cravings and seeking out the substance. Under these circumstances, the previously neutral cue takes on "incentive" motivational properties. Recently we have set up an animal model of incentive cues, in which a rat must pay attention to an audiovisual cue and perform a behavior in order to get a sweet reward. Using this model we have established several important brain regions and pathways that are important for processing reward-related cues. In this project we will modify this procedure using alcohol as the reward, and use a variety of pharmacological and sophisticated molecular techniques, including optogenetics, to determine which brain regions and neurotransmitters are responsible for the motivation to consume alcohol. The student will learn basic animal handling techniques, behavioral models, and data collection. Optogenetics is an advanced technique in which light can be used to turn on or off specific neurons in the brain. We will be incorporating this into our model, presenting a unique opportunity for the right student to contribute to a cutting edge project.

Research Project Information

Disciplines: neuroscience, neuropharmacology, psychology
Student Skill-Set Needed: maturity, ability to identify and work through a problem, reliability, punctuality, ability to work with rats, must be able to adhere to a schedule, must be able to work independently
Compensation: Academic Credit
Available: Fall, Spring, Summer


For further information on this opportunity, or to apply, contact:

Faculty Member: Caroline Bass
Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Pharmacology And Toxicology
Office: 510 Biomedical Research Building
Phone: 829-3790