The aim of our research is to understand the key principles underlying the anatomy and physiology of midbrain dopamine neurons
Dopamine neurons have a central role in processing rewards and punishments. Despite only numbering several hundred thousand, dopamine neurons have a powerful influence on the normal functioning of the brain through their dense axonal projections to many other brain regions involved in motivated behaviour, learning and memory, attention and movement. Dopamine neuron dysfunction is implicated in several disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and addiction.
We are currently focused on studying the anatomical and functional diversity of subgroups of dopamine neurons and how their activity is controlled by GABAergic inhibitory neurons. To address this we are using in vivo and in vitro electrophysiological techniques, including optogenetics, combined with single-cell labelling, neuroanatomical, molecular and behavioural approaches.
Figure: a) Spontaneous in vivo extracellular action potential activity in a ventral tegmental area dopamine neuron. b) DIC image of a whole-cell recording from a substantia nigra pars compacta dopamine neuron with overlaid electrophysiological trace of inhibitory synaptic currents. c) Immunostaining for tyrosine hydroxylase (red) in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) and GFP (green) driven by the Pitx3 promoter.
et al., 2016, Dorsal Raphe Dopamine Neurons Represent the Experience of Social Isolation, Cell, Vol:164, ISSN:0092-8674, Pages:617-631
et al., 2014, Dopaminergic basis of salience dysregulation in psychosis, Trends in Neurosciences, Vol:37, ISSN:0166-2236, Pages:85-94
et al., 2014, Antenatal Glucocorticoid Treatment Induces Adaptations in Adult Midbrain Dopamine Neurons, which Underpin Sexually Dimorphic Behavioral Resilience, Neuropsychopharmacology, Vol:39, ISSN:0893-133X, Pages:339-350
et al., 2009, Phasic excitation of dopamine neurons in ventral VTA by noxious stimuli, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol:106, ISSN:0027-8424, Pages:4894-4899