The overall goal is to understand the neurochemical basis for ethanol drinking behavior. Since the brain controls behavior, and neurons are the basic functional unit of the brain, it follows that neuronal activity underlies ethanol drinking behavior. Neuronal activity is controlled in part by the chemical microenvironment, so a major objective of the lab is to characterize the chemical changes in the brain that may underlie alcohol drinking. The research entails a combination of behavioral and chemical techniques.
Current interests include the effects of ethanol on basic dopaminergic neuronal activity in vivo, and the involvement of dopamine in ethanol self-administration behavior. Other interests include the physical characterization and theoretical description of diffusion behavior of solutes during in vivo microdialysis. Two new projects have been undertaken in the lab in the last few years. We have begun development of microdialysis for opioid peptides. This new analytical technique will enable analysis of larger messenger molecules and their roles in ethanol-related behaviors. Secondly, we are exploring new models of ethanol self-administration to better investigate the transition from controlled to uncontrolled ethanol self-administration.