Miss Zhen Fang Huang Cao
Supervised by Denis Burdakov
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farm Research Campus, Ashburn, VA, USA
The role DA in the VTA→ NAc pathway is kown to play a key role in the motivation to obtain food rewards. In addition, it has been shown that both hedonic as well as metabolic signals from a food reward can modulate VTA DA levels. Therefore, the VTA potentially integrates these two signals to produce behavioral outputs that reflect motivation to obtain food rewards. Although the VTA receives input from both gustatory and homeostatic pathways, the exact pathways that modulate DA-dependent motivation for food rewards are still unknown.
The LHA and leptin play a key role in energy homeostasis. The LHA can modulate the DA system through leptin activation of LHA Leprb→VTA cells. Therefore, this pathway may be in a position to relay metabolic information to the reward system, and affect motivation to obtain food rewards. I propose to test this hypothesis by determining the circuitry of this pathway and the effects that this pathway has on VTA DA output and DA-mediated appetitive behavior.
Electrophysiological recording techniques
Whole cell patch clamp
Beeler JA, Cao ZF, Kheirbek MA, Ding Y, Koranda J, Murakami M, Kang UJ, Zhuang X (2010), “Dopamine-dependent motor learning: insight into levodopa's long-duration response.” Ann Neurol 67(5):639-47 Details
Beeler JA, Cao ZF, Kheirbek MA, Zhuang X (2009), “Loss of cocaine locomotor response in Pitx3-deficient mice lacking a nigrostriatal pathway.” Neuropsychopharmacology 34(5):1149-61 Details