Joint Faculty (with NIAAA),
Molecular Targets and Medications Discovery Branch
Senior Investigator, Laboratory on Neurobiology of Compulsive Behaviors (NIAAA)
Contact5625 Fishers Lane
Room TS-24, MSC 9411
Bethesda, MD 20892
Ph.D. - Neuroscience-University of Buenos Aires - Argentina
Veronica A. Alvarez, Ph.D. is a joint faculty member at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), where she is chief of the Laboratory on Neurobiology of Compulsive Behaviors. Her research is aimed at uncovering the circuits and synaptic mechanisms mediating reward motivated behaviors and compulsive drug use. Specifically, the goal is to better understand how cocaine and ethanol affect synapses and neuronal connectivity to drive the development of compulsive seeking that characterizes individuals suffering from cocaine abuse or alcohol use disorder. Our research focuses on drug actions in the cortico-mesolimbic circuit, with an emphasis on the nucleus accumbens. We combine physiological with behavioral analysis and use cutting-edge approaches, such as in vivo and in vitro optogenetic and chemico-genetic tools, to manipulate the activity of targeted neuronal populations and dissect their role in ethanol and cocaine related behaviors. Our overarching hypothesis is that cocaine and ethanol induce different adaptations on the two distinct subpopulations of medium spiny neurons in the striatum, direct- and indirect-pathway neurons, and that both pathways contribute differently to the psychomotor, rewarding and addictive properties of these drugs of abuse.