UPR- Med. Sci. Campus;
My laboratory has a vast experience in studying the effects of cocaine sensitization on neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA). I have been studying the neurophysiology/neuropharmacology of cocaine addiction for decades. I am an expert in advanced electrophysiological and pharmacological techniques, and I apply these methods to drug abuse research. My lab have demonstrated that cocaine evokes neuroplastic adaptations in dopamine (DA) neurotransmission originated in DA neurons of the VTA. We had characterized important changes in the electrophysiological properties of DA neurons involved in the reward circuit during sensitization and had shown specific noradrenergic effects of cocaine on these cells. We have also shown detailed mechanisms of cocaine action that involve different protein kinases and specific ionic channels. Our most recent finding showed that drugs of abuse induce MCL neuroadaptations in a hierarchal order. Upon manipulation of the activity of aPKC, a key mediator of long term potentiation (LTP), we were able to show disruption of cocaine-evoked plasticity at the nucleus accumbens following blockage of LTP in the VTA.