1. Neurobiology of Reward, Emotion and Motivation
Department faculty members comprise a multidisciplinary group studying the fundamental neural pathways and mechanisms responsible for reward, emotion and motivation in the brain, using levels of analysis that range from molecular to behavioral/cognitive. Research in this area has clinical relevance to a variety of neuropsychiatric diseases, including drug addiction, schizophrenia, anxiety, affective, and sleep disorders, and there are strong linkages with clinical researchers in the Department of Psychiatry. Researchers in this group heavily depend on the use of animal models in their research, and have been successful in obtaining major infrastructure support from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation to help create a Neurobehavioral Core as one of several research facilities available to faculty and trainees in the department.
2. Neuroendocrinology and Autonomic Function
Several department members are world-renown for their studies of the neuroendocrine and autonomic systems of the brain, and the roles that hormones play in regulating the expression of behavior. Specifically, research in this area is focused on the integrative neural circuitry responsible for endocrine, autonomic and behavioral aspects of reproduction, including the neural basis of the estrous/menstrual cycle, male sex behavior, and seasonal control of reproduction. In addition, research is directed at understanding when and how sex differences in the brain arise, specifically with respect to limbic system structures and the control of reproductive neuroendocrine systems.
3. Learning, Memory, and Cognitive Neuroscience
Basic scientists and clinical researchers in Anatomy & Cell Biology and Psychiatry are working closely together to better understand the neural circuitry and molecular mechanisms involved in learning, memory, control of emotional responding, and cognition in animal models and human subjects. The goal of investigators in this multi-disciplinary collaboration is to determine how abnormalities in learning, memory, affect modulation and cognition result in the emergence of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as addiction, affective disorders and schizophrenia, in human patients and to develop more effective methods to help treat those disorders. Levels of analysis range from molecular to cognitive; data from animal models and functional neuroimaging are integrated to construct models of healthy and pathological neural function.
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