Behavioral Pharmacology & Neuroimaging
Our laboratory's main areas of interest are geared towards better understanding the mechanisms of addiction, including: alcohol, drug abuse and obesity. Understanding these mechanisms will help us develop better therapeutic tools for addictive disorders that amount to billions of dollars per year in health costs and lost productivity.
Based on previous findings at BNL, we focused on the role of the dopamine D2 family of receptors (D2, D3 and D4) in alcohol abuse, by training animals to drink alcohol. Once the animals were trained and displayed a clear preference for ethanol versus water, a viral vector carrying the D2cDNA was strereotaxically microinfused into the brain. This resulted in a significant decrease in alcohol intake to half the initial levels (Thanos et al. 2001).
These findings provided evidence that overexpression of D2 receptors reduced alcohol intake, and suggested that high levels of D2 receptors may be protective against alcohol abuse (Thanos et al., 2001). These results were recently supported in Inbred strains of alcohol preferring (P) rats (Thanos et al. 2004) and in D2R transgenic mice (Thanos et al 2004b).
Current research is utilizing various techniques (microPET brain imaging, autoradiography, immunohistochemistry, gene transfer vectors, microdialysis, microMRI and microCT and transgenic mouse models) to better study the neurochemistry, genetics and behavioral aspects of addiction. Ongoing studies will help further elucidate the complex role of the D2 family of receptors in alcoholism, drug abuse and obesity.
Last Modified: May 26, 2009