Our work emphasizes reward mechanisms which are strongly conserved in evolution. We have explored communication- and social networks, and the influence of the environment on individual choices.
NATURAL & DRUG-SENSITIVE REWARD
Invertebrate models have emerged as powerful new study systems in addiction research, offering a comparative and complementary approach to the more typical mammalian one. We highlight the parallels to the latter system in the organizational structure of a Frontiers Research Topic entitled ‘Invertebrate Models of Natural and Drug-Sensitive Reward’.
Like many other many invertebrate taxa, natural reward circuits in Drosophila are surprisingly sensitive to human drugs of abuse, and flies exhibit strong responses to common psychostimulants. Taking advantage of the vast array of genetic tools currently available for this taxon, we are characterizing the behavioral effects of ethanol and the synthetic cathinones. Although the latter share a chemical structure with amphetamines and pose a significant public health threat, what little is known of the neuropharmacology, behavioral and physiological effects comes from surveys of drug abusers and ER visits rather than experimental studies. Characterizing behavioral effects potentially contributes to regulatory control and the definition of a consistent legal framework.
Most of our efforts are directed towards a better understanding of how adaptations evolve, and what internal and external factors constrain their efficacy. We have generally avoided model systems preferring to focus on obscure invertebrates such as pneumorid grasshoppers. Click here to learn more.
We aim to improve inclusion and student success across all science disciplines, and to understand the individual and social forces that drive institutional change.
In prior work with colleagues at Owens Community College, we created the Science Engineering Technology Gateway Ohio (SetGo) program (NSF DUE 0757001) - providing a combination of academic bridging, enrichment activities, and authentic undergraduate research experiences. This directly impacted ca. 700 unique undergraduates, resulting in increases in STEM transfers (56%), retention (20%), acceleration to graduation (ca.1-year), and 6-yr graduation rates. We are currently conducting a study to assess the long-term impact of these activities and welcome feedback from former SetGo alums.
In our current Project SEA Change (Social and Evolutionary Advance of Institutional Change; NSF DUE 1525623) we take a social network approach at multiple levels, to explore the impacts of connectivity and sense making on the primary drivers of undergraduate success viz., student quantitative literacy and faculty adoption of evidence-based instructional practices. In collaboration with our community college partner, we create opportunities for faculty development, administrative interaction, and classroom innovation. Click here to learn more.