Emotion has a profound impact on animal behavior. In fact, the same neural mechanisms of learning that evolved to guide animals toward natural rewards also regulate mood. The goal of my research program is to understand the neural regulation of emotion, or affect, and the control it exerts over adaptive and, in the case of obesity and drug-seeking, maladaptive behavior.

To that end, I examine the role of brain nuclei in hedonic and motivational processing by recording changes in neuronal cell firing rates. These studies have revealed that patterned firing rate changes of nucleus accumbens neurons reflect the devaluation of a natural reward as it comes to predict, and is devalued by, future cocaine availability. I also use fast-scan cyclic voltammetry to examine dopamine transmission in this brain region. Dopamine release can be seen in response to a sweet taste that increases the firing rate of dopamine neurons. However, when this sweet taste is devalued by cocaine availability, dopamine concentration is transiently reduced. The dynamic nature of this conditioned switch in affect and the neural code reveals a mechanism by which cues may induce negative affect and subsequent drug-seeking behavior.

Selected Publications


Schroeder Complex

Contact Biomedical Sciences

Department of Biomedical Sciences
College of Health Sciences
Schroeder Complex, 426
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881

Phone: (414) 288-7251
Fax: (414) 288-6564