Neurophysiology of Addiction and Affective Disorders
The goal of the Pleil Lab at Weill Cornell is to identify and characterize the neural circuit mechanisms of addiction and comorbid affective neuropsychiatric disorders. Given the high degree of comorbidity between addiction and anxiety/mood disorders in women but the dearth of fundamental knowledge about the underpinnings of these neuropsychiatric diseases, we are particularly interested in sex differences in the circuit and synaptic mechanisms of addictive and affective behaviors and plasticity that contributes to the development of disease states. Specifically, we focus on the role of sex hormones in 1) the organization of behaviorally-relevant limbic circuits, 2) the activity of cell type- and projection-defined neuronal populations within these circuits, and 3) the receptor-specific signaling of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters at critical synaptic nodes. Using a number of complementary molecular, physiological, and behavioral techniques, including neuronal tracing, in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, slice electrophysiology, and in vivo and ex vivo optogenetics and chemogenetics, we are able to analyze neural circuit mechanisms of addiction and mood disorders at the anatomical, molecular, cellular, synaptic, circuit, and behavioral levels.