Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis InternationalĀ® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #261a
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Unraveling Brain Circuits for Drug Seeking and Demand

Monday, May 30, 2016
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
Grand Ballroom AB, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: BPN; Domain: Applied Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D.
Chair: Matthew W. Johnson (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine)
GARY ASTON-JONES (Rutgers University)
Gary Aston-Jones is the Inaugural Director of the Brain Health Institute at Rutgers University and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, and the Murray and Charlotte Strongwater Endowed Chair in Neuroscience and Brain Health. He earned his Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the California Institute of Technology with James Olds and Floyd Bloom, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow with Bloom at the Salk Institute. Dr. Aston-Jones’s research focuses on the neural mechanisms of reward-motivated behavior, and examines the roles of ascending brain monoamine and peptide systems in addiction and cognitive processes. His studies use neurophysiology, neuroanatomy and behavioral neuropharmacology techniques in anesthetized and behaving rats. Recently his lab has also implemented optogenetics, DREADD synthetic designer receptors, and behavioral economics methods to advance the study of these systems in behavior. He and his colleagues have described a role for the brain noradrenergic locus coeruleus system in arousal, decision and behavioral flexibility, as well as a key role for the neuropeptides orexin/hypocretins in motivation and addiction. Dr. Aston-Jones has directed a well-funded lab for more than 25 years, chaired the Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior study section at NIH, and received a MERIT award for his addiction research from NIDA. He has been a keynote speaker at many national and international meetings, and was recently a Presidential Lecturer at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) meeting. He serves as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief for the journal Brain Research, and co-organized (with Karl Deisseroth) the annual Brain Research Conference in October 2013 on Optogenetics and Pharmacogenetics in Mental Health and Disease as a satellite meeting before the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting. He has published more than 240 journal and review articles, and has trained 45 postdoctoral fellows and graduated 17 Ph.D. students, many of whom now hold faculty positions including department and endowed chairs.

Drug addiction is a pernicious and prevalent problem with little available for clinical treatment. This presentation will review the presenter's recent studies that show roles for the ventral pallidum (VP), ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA), and orexin/hypocretin brain systems in cocaine seeking and demand. A within-session behavioral economic paradigm revealed potent contributions of the VTA DA system to demand for cocaine. The presenter used designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs) to show that the projection from VP to VTA DA neurons is critical for cocaine seeking. Additional pharmacologic studies reveal that orexin inputs to VTA interact with glutamate inputs and those from VP to augment cocaine seeking elicited by cocaine-associated cues. The presentation concludes that DREADDs are a promising avenue for novel therapies to treat drug abuse.

Target Audience:

Licensed Psychologists, certified behavior analysts, graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, the participant will be able to: (1) describe within-session behavioral economics procedures for measuring drug demand in animals; (2) describe roles of orexin, dopamine, and ventral palladium brain systems in cocaine addiction; (3) describe potential use of DREADD designer receptors to treat human addiction.



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