Animal Models of Incentive Cues in Seeking Natural Rewards and Alcohol

image of a rat brain.

In this project, we will use a variety of pharmacological and sophisticated molecular techniques, including optogenetics, to determine which brain regions and neurotransmitters are responsible for the motivation to consume alcohol.

Project description

Our laboratory is focused on understanding the neurobiology responsible for motivated behaviors, with the goal of identifying pathways that may serve as potential targets in treating addiction.

Environmental or external stimuli (cues) can increase the motivation to consume sweet or fatty foods, or to drink alcohol to excess. This may occur when the cue is repeatedly paired with the food or alcohol, and can lead to cravings and seeking out the substance. Under these circumstances, the previously neutral cue takes on "incentive" motivational properties.

Recently we have set up an animal model of incentive cues, in which a rat must pay attention to an audiovisual cue and perform a behavior in order to get a sweet reward. Using this model we have established several important brain regions and pathways that are important for processing reward-related cues.

In this project we will modify this procedure using alcohol as the reward, and use a variety of pharmacological and sophisticated molecular techniques, including optogenetics, to determine which brain regions and neurotransmitters are responsible for the motivation to consume alcohol.

The student will learn basic animal handling techniques, behavioral models, and data collection. Optogenetics is an advanced technique in which light can be used to turn on or off specific neurons in the brain. We will be incorporating this into our model, presenting a unique opportunity for the right student to contribute to a cutting edge project.

Project outcome

The specific outcomes of this project will be identified by the faculty mentor at the beginning of your collaboration. 

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Other: must have availability in morning hours for at 2-3 days, M-F
Start time Fall, Spring, Summer
Level of collaboration Other: assist a post-doctoral fellow in their research; potential for an individual project
Benefits Academic Credit
Who is eligible maturity, ability to identify and work through a problem, reliability, punctuality, ability to work with rates, must be able to adhere to a schedule, must be able to work independently

Project mentor

Caroline Bass

Assistant Professor

Pharmacology and Toxicology

510 Biomedical Research Building

Phone: (716) 829-3790

Email: cebass@buffalo.edu

Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 
Fulfilling Academic Major/Minor Requirements

If you are planning to use this project to satisfy program requirements for your academic major or minor, it is your responsibility to obtain approval from your academic department prior to beginning the project. 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

All students must complete IACUC training for working with animals.

Students must complete lab safety training.