"Translational research" involves looking at a single problem from many different directions and at many different levels. For example, we might look at the issue of drug craving by talking with addicts about their experiences, viewing their brains through an MRI scanner, observing mice who have become addicted to drugs, or using cultured cells to look at neurotransmitter receptors affected by drug molecules. Investigating neurobiological questions at these multiple levels makes research more powerful, since each level or technique has different insights to offer.
MARC research themes
Genes that influence methamphetamine (MA) use have been difficult to identify, but animal research conducted by members of our Center have made a novel discovery of a gene with a major effect on MA intake. This gene codes for a receptor, called the trace amine-associated receptor 1 or TAAR1, that normally curbs MA intake, but when it is non-functional, unfettered MA consumption occurs: Humans possess several forms of this gene, some of which could lead to greater craving for MA use and risk for relapse. Our Center will perform in-depth studies in rodent models and humans of the importance of this gene and receptor on several behavioral, physiological and brain responses to MA, with the goal of identifying new mechanisms for treatment.
Tying our work together, the MARC has several research themes related to methamphetamine addiction:
- Synaptic plasticity
- Bidirectional translational research
Work is organized into three cores that support our scientific projects:
Mechanism of TAAR1 modulation of response to MA administration
Mechanisms of methamphetamine-mediated synaptic plasticity in VTA glutamate signaling
TAAR1 and synaptic plasticity underlying incubation of methamphetamine craving
Integrative functional connectivity MRI ‘bridge’ analyses of TAAR1 and methamphetamine