The general research goals of the department are to understand the mechanisms of normal physiology, pathophysiology, and drug action in stress, anxiety, addiction, pain, neuroinflammation and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
Faculty are currently principal investigators or co-investigators on grants from the NIMH, NIDA, NHLBI, NICHD, NIAAA, the Department of Defense, the American Heart Association, and the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute. A wide variety of approaches are used including genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomics. Faculty also use a variety of in vitro and in vivo techniques, including electrophysiology, behavioral and microdialysis testing, optogenetics and the use of genome editing to develop novel animal models. Collaborations exist with researchers in neuroscience, psychology, physiology, medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and psychiatry.
Students in the department are supported by teaching assistantships, graduate school fellowships and on grants from the NIH and the American Heart Association.
- The department has five tenure-track faculty and ten Ph.D students.
- Total funding to the department in 2016 was over $4.3 million.
- There are three core areas of current research that faculty have notable skills, funding and focus. These areas include:
- Neurobiology of Stress / Endocrinology: This encompasses the diverse work in the department on oxytocin and stress responsiveness, limbic system physiology as it relates to mood disorders, neurological regulation of cardiovascular function, and systemic responses to chronic stress.
- Neurobiology of Addiction / Reward / Pain: Current work in the department is focused on ethanol, cocaine and opioid addiction, dopamine signaling in the mediation of behavioral reward, and novel therapeutics for the treatment of substance abuse and promotion of abstinence. Additional related work examines the role of opioid receptor signaling to alleviate pain.
- Neurobiology of Disease: There is current work in the Department on PD, AD, HIV, aging and alcohol neurotoxicity including significant work on the role of HIV-1 Tat protein in promoting HIV associated neurologic disease.