Control of aversive learning and memory by Noradrenaline and Dopamine interactions
Project ID: NMH00073
Supervisor: Dr. Emma Cahill
Second Supervisor:Dr. Amy Milton
Second Supervisor DepartmentDepartment of Psychology
Anxiety disorders are prevalent in our society but treatment options remain limited. We use animal models to further our understanding of how the brain learns and remembers signals of fear or threat and to identify new targets for pharmacological intervention.
Although it is well known that Noradrenaline (NA) and Dopamine (DA) innervate the amygdala and act there to regulate emotional behaviour such as fear and anxiety, the neural basis of their interactions is not well understood. In the amygdala, the role of DA receptors in the various stages of fear memory processing is understudied relative to its known contribution to appetitive learning. In contrast, the NA system has been long appreciated to control the persistence of aversive memory. However, neither system acts in isolation. NA and DA signal through specific g-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) subtypes and signalling pathways where crosstalk between these two systems is likely to control behaviour. This project will inspect the anatomical co-expression of these GPCR in the amygdala circuitry network, explore their interactions at the level of cell signalling and investigate the impact of disrupting these interactions for the control of behaviour.
Several neuropsychiatric disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction, and schizophrenia are linked to perturbations in either the Noradrenaline and Dopamine systems. A long term aim of this work will be to provide important insight into how the two systems influence each other so new pharmacological targets can be explored. At present we collaborate with Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals (Germany) on projects related to this work.