NIH Research Festival
The central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) governs behavioral responses that perpetuate alcohol dependence, including enhanced anxiety and escalated, compulsive alcohol drinking. These behavioral responses arise from critical adaptations in CeA function that are developed during alcohol dependence. At this time, the projections from the CeA that are salient for behavioral changes have yet to be explored. The current study uses a multifaceted approach to map and characterize projections from the CeA to other brain regions. In naïve Wistar rats, CeA projections were mapped using anterograde and retrograde tracing methods. The CeA was a well-established projection to the dorsal and ventral portions of the periaqueductal gray (PAG). To characterize this projection, in situ hybridization paired with mapping techniques were used to identify and characterize CeA cell types that project to these subregions. To investigate the PAG's role in alcohol dependence, Gi-coupled designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (Gi DREADDs) were expressed in ventral and dorsal PAG neuronsin alcohol dependent and non-dependent Wistar rats. Prior to testing to assess anxiety, alcohol self-administration, and compulsive alcohol drinking behavior, rats were injected subcutaneously with the synthetic ligand for Gi DREADDs or vehicle. Preliminary data suggests that alcohol dependent rats are more anxious and self-administer greater amounts of alcohol than non-dependent rats, in agreement with past studies. Preliminary results also confirm the CeA projection to the PAG subregions. Together, the results of these experiments will provide a comprehensive evaluation of CeA projections that may contribute to the pathophysiology of alcohol dependence.
Scientific Focus Area: Neuroscience
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