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The España Lab Research

How does arousal impact motivated behavior?

The laboratory employs a multidisciplinary approach to uncover the neural mechanisms involved in the regulation of arousal-related processes and motivated behavior in normal and pathological conditions.

In particular, we are interested in the extent to which noradrenergic, dopaminergic, and hypocretinergic systems orchestrate arousal and thereby influence sleep/wake function, stress and reward/reinforcement mechanisms.

Learn more about our techniques.


España Lab: Spontaneous DA release events observed in a resting mouse.

Spontaneous DA release events observed in a resting mouse.

Norepinephrine and Dopamine

The laboratory has a longstanding interest in the involvement of monoaminergic signaling in the regulation of arousal-related processes. In particular we are interested in the extent to which these neurotransmitters influence motivated behavior by modulating levels of arousal.

We are using fast scan cyclic voltammetry to examine changes in dopamine and norepinephrine signaling across the sleep/wake cycle and in response to specific behavioral states.

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España Lab: HCRT peptides exert rapid wake-promoting effects.

HCRT peptides exert rapid wake-promoting effects.

Hypocretins

Since 1998 we have been investigating the neurobiology of the hypocretin (HCRT) system, with a particular emphasis on its involvement in the regulation of sleep/wake processes, stress and motivated behaviors.

We are currently involved in a series of studies examining the importance of HCRT signaling in the regulation of reinforcment processes involving both natural and drug rewards.

España Lab: Blockade of HCRT 1 receptors in the ventral tegmental area reduces dopamine responses to cocaine.

Blockade of HCRT 1 receptors in the ventral tegmental area reduces dopamine responses to cocaine.

España Lab: Mice lacking HCRT peptides display reduced dopamine responses to cocaine.

Mice lacking HCRT peptides display reduced dopamine responses to cocaine.

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España Lab: Multiple neurotransmistter systems participate in the orchestration of arousal.

Multiple neurotransmistter systems participate in the orchestration of arousal.

Sleep and Arousal

Appropriate arousal regulation is critical for normal cognitive and affective function and for the expression of a variety of behaviors. Research in the lab is focused on elucidating the arousal processes that underlie the regulation of motivated behavior and the extent to which dopaminergic, noradrenergic, and hypocretinergic systems participate in these actions.

España Lab: Dopamine signaling can be measured during sleep/wake recordings.

Dopamine signaling can be measured during sleep/wake recordings.

España Lab: HCRT peptides exert rapid wake-promoting effects.

HCRT peptides exert rapid wake-promoting effects.

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España Lab: Hypocretin receptor 1 antagonists reduce cocaine self-administration.

Hypocretin receptor 1 antagonists reduce cocaine self-administration.

Substance Abuse

Current projects on substance abuse focus on the involvement of hypocretin systems in the regulation of psychostimulant abuse and its effects on dopamine and norepinephrine signaling. The laboratory employs a variety of techniques including fast scan cyclic voltammetry, microdialysis, multi-electrode single unit electrophysiology, EEG/EMG recordings and a series of behavioral assays.

España Lab: Mice lacking hypocretin peptides display reduced dopamine responses to cocaine.

Mice lacking hypocretin peptides display reduced dopamine responses to cocaine.

España Lab: High affinity dopamine uptake blockers produced rapid onset uptake inhibition.

High affinity dopamine uptake blockers produced rapid onset uptake inhibition.

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Stress

The laboratory is currently investigating the involvement of dopamine and hypocretin systems in stress-induced alterations in cocaine self-adminsitration.

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Techniques

The laboratory uses a variety of research techniques to examine the neural correlates underlying the regulation of arousal and motivated behavior. These include:

  • Fast scan cyclic voltammetry
  • Multi-single unit electrophysiology
  • Self-administration techinques
  • Conditioned place preference
  • Locomotor activity monitoring
  • PCR, Westerns, Immunohistochemistry
  • Genetic models

Voltammetry

España Lab: Cocaine effects measured using voltammetry in a freely moving mouse.

Cocaine effects measured using voltammetry in a freely moving mouse.

España Lab: Depiction of voltammetry processes using carbon fiber electrodes.

Depiction of voltammetry processes using carbon fiber electrodes.

Multi-Single Unit Recordings

España Lab: Simultaneous recordings of multiple hippocampal cells using the Plexon system.

Simultaneous recordings of multiple hippocampal cells using the Plexon system.

España Lab: Perievent histograms depicting single cell activity prior to an operant response.

Perievent histograms depicting single cell activity prior to an operant response.

Self-Administration

España Lab: Discrete trials schedules of reinforcement showing varying patterns of cocaine intake.

Discrete trials schedules of reinforcement showing varying patterns of cocaine intake.

España Lab: Threshold schedule of reinforcement showing consumption and unit price (Pmax).

Threshold schedule of reinforcement showing consumption and unit price (Pmax).

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Demon Voltammetry & Analysis

We developed fast scan cyclic voltammetry software to examine neurotransmitter release and uptake across various in vitro and in vivo preparations. The software is written in LabView language (National Instruments, Austin TX) and provides command voltage and stimulation generation as well as data acquisition and analysis capabilities. If you are interested in using the Demon Voltammetry and Analysis , you can obtain a Free Academic and Non-Profit License from the Office of Technology Asset Management at Wake Forest University Health Sciences.

Demon Voltammetry & Analysis

 
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Research image from The España Lab at Drexel University College of Medicine.