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Alcohol-induced Changes in Neural Substrates of Behavioral Flexibility
Start Date: 11/10/2021Start Time: 4:00 PM
End Date: 11/10/2021End Time: 5:30 PM
Event Description
BIOMED Seminar


Alcohol-induced Changes in Neural Substrates of Behavioral Flexibility

Jacqueline Barker, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
Drexel University College of Medicine

The ability to flexibly regulate behavior is key to function in an ever-changing world. To accomplish this regulation, we need to detect, encode, and implement information on the relationship between actions and their outcomes and on outcome value and valence. Chronic alcohol exposure can drive maladaptive behavioral strategies by impacting sensitivity to changes in contingency and reward value and by shifting valuation of rewarding versus aversive outcomes. This contributes not only to further uncontrolled drug seeking and taking, but also comorbid conditions including depression and anxiety.

The nucleus accumbens is a key substrate of behavioral flexibility, in part because of its function integrating discrete glutamatergic inputs. While it is understood that chronic exposure to drugs of abuse dysregulates nucleus accumbens glutamate signaling, the precise mechanisms and outcomes of these changes are poorly understood.

Our work combines behavioral analyses with in vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics, and chemogenetics to interrogate the role of nucleus accumbens-projecting neurons in the regulation of behavioral flexibility and, further, their perturbation by chronic alcohol exposure. We anticipate that a greater understanding of the impacts of chronic alcohol on circuit and cellular substrates of behavioral flexibility will yield targets for treatment development for alcohol and substance use disorders and other neuropsychiatric illnesses.  

Jacqueline Barker, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at the Drexel University College of Medicine. She is the co-Chair of the Drexel University College of Medicine Women in Medicine and Science Committee. Her graduate training in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program at Yale University and postdoctoral training in the Department of Neuroscience at the Medical University of South Carolina have provided a strong background in neurocognitive function and substance use disorders.

Dr. Barker's lab investigates the neural circuits and molecular substrates regulating behavioral and cognitive flexibility and their dysregulation in disease states. To accomplish this, her work combines circuit- and cell-type specific approaches with novel pharmacological tools and animal models to assess acquired impairments following HIV infection and chronic drug and alcohol exposure.

Dr. Barker's research is currently funded by NIAAA and NIDA, including the DP2 Avenir Award, as well as multiple foundation awards. Trainees from her research group have received recognition of their work in multiple venues, including the receipt of an NIAAA F31 fellowship, postdoctoral foundation fellowships, and research and travel awards from relevant research societies.
Contact Information:
Name: Lisa Williams
Jacqueline Barker
Remote Webinar
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