Laboratory of Motivation and Addiction

Drug use and addiction have enormous impact on our society. About 9% of the adult US population has used illicit drugs in the past month; lifetime use of illicit drugs is 47%; the majority of which included illicit drugs besides marijuana. In the case of alcohol and nicotine, 18% of Americans have abused alcohol, and as many of 80% of these people are regular smokers. Despite this, what is striking is that while many individuals are exposed to addictive drugs in their lifetimes, only a small percentage develop the patterns of drug-taking associated with addiction. These individuals are likely to be predisposed to addiction for distinct reasons, and determining what these predispositions are is a major goal of our laboratory. We are currently focused on how the response to drug-associated stimuli (“cues”) drives motivated behavior and results in drug-taking behavior, and how genetic and environmental factors interact to influence the magnitude of these differences. To this end, our laboratory specializes in behavioral, genetic, and in vivo neurophysiological techniques to study neural connections within reward-related brain areas.