Abstracts - Speakers

First Annual Waggoner Center Advance - March 22, 2013



Juan Dominguez, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Hypothalamic Modulation of Sex and Cocaine Response

Drugs of abuse exert their effects by exploiting natural-neurobiological reward mechanisms, especially the mesolimbic system. However, the mesolimbic system does not operate in isolation, and input from other reward-relevant structures may play a role in cocaine's rewarding effects. The medial preoptic area (mPOA) of the hypothalamus is involved in the regulation of two essential and naturally rewarding behaviors, sexual and maternal behaviors. It also makes strong neuroanatomical connections with areas of the mesolimbic system, particularly the ventral tegmental area (VTA). As such, the mPOA is a logical candidate for a neuroanatomical locus modulating activity in the mesolimbic system and emergent behavioral expressions of drug reward, yet the role of this structure is largely unexplored. Here, using a female rat model, I will explore evidence that the mPOA may be a critical modulating structure in cocaine-induced mesolimbic activity and behavioral manifestation of reward, at least in part via GABAergic output that is sensitive to dopamine input. I will also discuss future and ongoing studies that explore the neuroendocrine profile of this hypothalamic modulation of cocaine response.