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Analisis of neural circuits of reward and motivation
Portugal (PorMSIC) - University of Minho, Braga
Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS) Universidade do Minho Campus de Gualtar
Carina Cunha and Ana João Rodrigues
Type of Research Project
- Basic science
What is the background of the project?
Perceiving a rewarding event is so important for species survival as avoiding aversive situations. Reward deficits underlie several neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, and addiction. Importantly, stress greatly impacts the reward circuit at the molecular and functional level, and acts as a trigger for these disorders. Characterizing the neural circuits that mediate reward and reinforcement in control and stressed animals is thus important to better understand the etiology of these disorders, and to develop more targeted and efficient therapeutic approaches. In this work we will use optogenetics to selectively activate/inhibt specific neuronal populations and evaluate its impact in rodent behavior. In addition, we will use electrophysiological tools in order to dissect what is the role of specific neurons in rewardrelated behavior.
What is the aim of the project?
This project aims to analysethe neural circuits involved in the process of reward and motivation throught optogenetic manipulation/inhibition of specific neuronal populations in reward/motivationrelated tasks
What techniques and methods are used?
The project will use initially imunofluorescence/immunohistochemistry and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques. Then to study the neural circuits in the process of reward and motivation in the test subjects, single unit electrophysiological recordings in anesthetized animalsare needed. Finally, since the aim is to acess the role of specific neurons in rewardrelated behavior, we will proceed with the analisys of animal behavior and the other data collect.
What is the role of the student?
- The student will observe the practical experiments but will be highly involved in the analysis of the results
- The tasks will be done under supervision
What are the tasks expected to be accomplished by the student?
The student is expected to perform the following: 1. Weaning and genotyping of transgenic animals (mice) 2. Stereotaxic surgery for viral injection 3. Behavior with optogenetic stimulation of specific neuronal populations 4. Brain tissue collection 5. Brain tissue fixation and sectioning in vibratome 6. Immunofluorescence for viral expression 7. Quantification of infection extent 8. Double immunofluorescence for co-expression of the virus injected with specific neuronal cell markers 9. c-fos (immediate early gene) immunostaining to assess neuronal activation 10. Single unit in vivo electrophysiological recording with optogenetic stimulation
Will there be any theoretical teaching provided (preliminary readings, lectures, courses, seminars etc)
Yes. Scientific papers published by the research group will be provided prior to performance of the experiments.
What is expected from the student at the end of the research exchange? What will be the general outcome of the student?
- The student will prepare a scientific report
What skills are required of the student? Is there any special knowledge or a certain level of studies needed?
No special skill required but some molecular biology background will help
Are there any legal limitations in the student’s involvement
Students are not legally allowed to perform animal experimentation on their own if they are not certified for that purpose.
Type of students accepted
This project accepts: - Medical students
- Soares-Cunha et al. Activation of D2 dopamine receptor-expressing neurons in the nucleus accumbens increases motivation. (2016). Nature Communications; 7:11829.
- Coimbra et al. (2017). Impairments in laterodorsaltegmentum to VTA projections underlie glucocorticoid-triggered reward deficits. eLife; 6. pii: e25843
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