Direction 1: Developmental alcohol exposure
Ongoing project: Synaptic adaptations induced by prenatal alcohol exposure. Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) is a common risk factor that predisposes subjects to an array of mental disorders, particularly drug addiction. These behavioral consequences of PAE cause substantial morbidity, but available treatments are limited. One reason is the lack of sufficient understanding about the neuroadaptations induced by PAE, and how these changes contribute to PAE-induced mental disorders. This project is to explore the effects of PAE on the maturation of excitatory synapse after birth, which may contribute to the high risk of addiction in pups with PAE history
Direction 2: Cocaine addiction
Ongoing project: Neurosubstrates mediating long-term persistence of cocaine craving. This project focuses on the neuroplasticity in long-term persistence of drug-seeking even after a prolonged withdrawal from previous drug-taking. Combining the drug self-administration model in rodents with whole-cell patch clamp recordings and in vivo / in vitro optogenetics, the neuroadaptations of striatal medium-sized spiny neurons in specific neural circuits at both cellular and synaptic levels are investigated.
Direction 3: Neurodegenerative Diseases
Ongoing project: Neural adaptations involved in psychiatric symptoms of Huntington’s disease Huntington’s disease(HD) is a genetic neurodegenerative disorder caused by an anomalous expansion of CAG repeats in the HTT gene. Psychiatric symptoms in HD, including depression, apathy, mood swings and irritability, accompany and often precede the onset of motor abnormalities, but are poorly understood and insufficiently treated. One of our projects is designed to unveil the neuronal alterations underlying HD-related psychiatric symptoms in mouse models of HD.