Group leader: Christian Luscher
Group name: Addiction and Dopamine System
Affiliation: Medical Sciences
Our lab is interested in cellular mechanisms that underlie drug reinforcement, dependence and addiction. We believe that the core of these diseases can be understood as neuroadaptive changes and pathological synaptic plasticity, which are initiated by the effects of addictive drugs on the mesolimbic dopamine system. We look at its origin, the ventral tegmental area (VTA), where we use electrophysiology (whole cell patch clamp) and imaging in acute slices of mice in combination with pharmacological, genetic and behavioral tools. Two lines of experiments are carried out in parallel: first, we characterize the role of Kir3/GIRK channels that are effectors of G protein coupled receptors (and therefore effectors of opioids, cannabinoids and g-hydoxybutyrate). Second, we test how addictive drugs such as cocaine affect synaptic plasticity in the VTA.