Dr. Gulley's laboratory studies the neurobiological and behavioral consequences of repeated exposure to psychoactive drugs such as alcohol, THC (cannabis), and the amphetamines. In addition, they investigate motivation, cognitive behavior and brain circuitry in drug naïve individuals, especially in rodent models of adolescence. Examples of current research questions addressed by the lab include:
- Do functional immaturities in the adolescent brain explain age differences in motivation and cognitive behavior that contribute to a heightened vulnerability to use and abuse drugs?
- Are adolescents, compared to adults, more sensitive to drug-induced changes in neural function and behavior?
- Are there more adverse consequences when drug exposure occurs early in life?
In the lab, Dr. Gulley and his students use behavioral and physiological methods of analysis, both alone and in combination. For behavior, they study drug responses using operant drug self-administration, drug discrimination, and behavioral sensitization techniques. They also use operant food-reinforced responding to assess cognitive behaviors, including impulsivity, behavioral flexibility, attention, and working memory, as well as maze-based behavioral assessments (e.g., elevated plus maze; T-maze). Physiological measure include in vivo multiple neuron electrophysiology, which allows for the recording of the activity of a large number of brain cells as animals are actively behaving, in vitro brain slice electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, gel electrophoresis, and immunoblotting techniques.