NIDA/NIAAA Common Research Themes

 The studies ongoing in the laboratories of the Training Faculty have several commonalties, reflecting a high degree of collaboration among laboratories. Four areas of commonality are selected from the many currently in place to illustrate the collaborations in Portland. Twelve investigators are actively studying dopaminergic systems, which are considered central to most current theories of the neurobiology of drug abuse. These ongoing studies span the range from molecular biology to behavioral pharmacology and genetic mapping. Furthermore, the specific collaborations in place combine different levels of approach, taking advantage of the range of faculty expertise.

A second strong theme common to the training faculty is the use of genetic tools to study the problems of drug abuse. Fourteen of the faculty are actively employing genetic strategies, with a strong focus on studies whose goals is to map drug-sensitivity genes to particular chromosomal locations using Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) methods. The homology between human and mouse chromosome maps will allow the eventual mapping of these genes to the human chromosome through syntenic mapping. Several candidate QTLs have been identified with a high degree of statistical certainty, and faculty and trainees are now pursuing the identity of the mapped genes. Thus, activity in the genetics group is beginning to integrate the studies of single genes from the behavioral pharmacogenetic level of mapping to the molecular biological study of gene function.

A third theme common to ongoing research in the laboratories of several members of the training faculty is the study of learned and unlearned determinants of responses to drugs, particularly their rewarding effects and drug self-administration. A number of animal models differing genetically are used in these studies. Finally, a fourth example of commonality is in the area of opioid systems, where seven members of the training faculty have studies underway at all levels of analysis.

These examples are illustrative of the large number of collaborative interactions among training faculty that have already involved our pre- and postdoctoral trainees. In fact, the implementation of this training program has fostered the development of many new collaborations, especially between faculty working at different levels of analysis. The collaborative interactions involving NIDA trainees are clearly reflected in the list of Trainee Publications.

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