Cellular Neurobiology Research Branch - The Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Skip Navigation


Branch Chief

Geoffrey Schoenbaum, M.D., Ph.D. on-site page link

Branch Overview

The Cellular Neurobiology Branch studies central nervous system (CNS) function at the cellular level, including physiological properties of cells, biochemical mechanisms and pathways, effects of neurotrophic factors, neuroanatomical methods, electrophysiology, animal models of drug effects and neurodegeneration, and drug effects on human cells.

Branch Sections

  • Behavioral Neurophysiology Neuroscience
  • Synaptic Plasticity Section
  • Electrophysiology Research
  • Neuronal Circuits and Behavior Unit

Behavioral Neurophysiology Neuroscience Section

Section Chief: Geoffrey Schoenbaum, M.D., Ph.D. on-site page link
  • The Schoenbaum Lab uses established and boutique behavioral approaches combined with techniques ranging from single-unit recording to fast scan cyclic voltametry to neurotoxic lesions to optogenetics.
  • Experiments are designed to test hypotheses regarding the neural instantiation of empirically-derived mechanisms known to govern associative learning and decision making, in both normal and drug-experienced animals.
  • Our hypotheses are lifted from the rich traditions of animal learning theory, computational neuroscience, and economics.

Section Lab Page

Synaptic Plasticity Section

Section Chief: Antonello Bonci, M.D. on-site page link
  • Investigate drug-induced neuroadaptations in excitatory transmission within key reward circuits.
  • Investigate cellular mechanisms underlying drug-induced changes in neuronal intrinsic properties in key reward circuits.
  • Using optogenetic technology to identify the role of specific circuits in reward-learning behaviors.

Electrophysiology Research Section

Section Chief: Carl R. Lupica, Ph.D. on-site page link

Mechanisms of action of abused drugs on synaptic neuronal circuitry:

  • Cannabinoid effects in hippocampus, ventral tegmental area and nucleus accumbens
  • Effects of cannabinoids and cocaine on synaptic plasticity in brain reward circuits

Physiological characterization of Parkinson’s disease in transgenic models:

  • Respiratory chain dysfunction in dopamine neuron mitochondria
  • Dopamine neuron degeneration and early physiological events

Laboratory approaches:

  • Brain slices
  • Patch clamp electrophysiology
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Ultraviolet laser photolysis of caged molecules
  • Electrochemistry of dopamine in brain slices
  • Transgenic models

Neuronal Circuits and Behavior Unit

Unit Chief: Yeka Aponte, Ph.D. on-site page link
  • The Aponte Lab uses a combination of optogenetics, chemogenetics, electrophysiology, two-photon fluorescence endomicroscopy, and behavioral assays to elucidate the neuronal basis of survival behaviors, such as feeding, and to determine how these neuronal circuits drive the rewarding and addictive nature of food intake and drugs of abuse.
  • Our research involves experiments to measure and manipulate genetically-defined cell types during behavior to identify key elements of the feeding-reward circuits.
  • We combine our behavioral and cell type analyses to develop models of circuits for survival behaviors and to determine how these circuits dysfunction in addiction.

Unit Lab Page

Related Information...

Health and Human Services Logo National Institute on Drug Abuse Logo

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.

PDF documents require the free Adobe Reader. Microsoft Word documents require the free Microsoft Word viewer. Microsoft PowerPoint documents require the free Microsoft PowerPoint viewer. Flash content requires the free Adobe Flash Player.