Marisela Morales, M.S., Ph.D. Principal Investigator - Principal Investigators - The Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

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251 Bayview Blvd
Suite 200, Room 06A729
Baltimore, MD 21224

Phone: 443-740-2717
Fax : 443-740-2817

Marisela Morales, M.S., Ph.D.

Director, Core Facilities
Branch Chief, Integrative Neuroscience Branch
Section Chief, Neuronal Networks Section

Post-doctoral training - University of Colorado, Boulder, CO (advisor: Dr. Eva Fifková). The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA (advisor: Dr. Floyd Bloom).

Ph. D. - Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Universidad de Guanajuato, Institute of Experimental Biology (IIBE), Mexico.

M.S. - Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Universidad de Guanajuato, Institute of Experimental Biology (IIBE), Mexico.

B.S. - Biochemistry and Microbiology. Instituto Politecnico Nacional (IPN), School of Biological Sciences. Mexico.


We are investigating the molecules, cells and neuronal pathways central to the neurobiology of drug addiction. Towards this end, we apply anatomical, cell molecular, cell biological and electrophysiological experimental approaches. Our research focus on two issues: what is the brain circuitry through which addictive drugs have their habit-forming actions, and what are the neuroadaptations in this circuitry that accompany the transition from recreational to compulsive drug-taking?

Accumulating evidence indicate that the ventral tegmental area (VTA) plays a role in goal-directed behavior and in reward processing to natural rewards and to several drugs of abuse. Therefore, we are investigating the neuronal properties and synaptic connectivity of the VTA to gain a better understanding of the interactions of the VTA with other brain structures in the processing and integration of information underlying behaviors associated with the neurobiology of drugs of addiction. Two populations of VTA neurons, dopaminergic neurons and GABAergic neurons, have been extensively characterized. Unexpectedly our work has recently shown that glutamatergic neurons are also present in the VTA. We are currently exploring the neuronal connectivity of VTA glutamatergic neurons and their participation in animal behavior.

Clinical observations and results from animal models indicate that behaviors associated with intake of drugs of abuse are affected by stress. The neuronal pathways, neurons, and neurotransmitters that mediate interactions between stress and drugs of abuse are not well characterized. In this regard, work from our laboratory has provided evidence indicating synaptic connectivity between the reward and the stress systems at the level of the VTA

Selected Publications:

View more publications at PubMed.

More about Dr. Morales

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal biomedical and behavioral research agency of the United States Government. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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