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New technologies for examining the role of neuronal ensembles in addiction


When using drugs of abuse, learned associations are formed between the drugs and stimuli present in the drug-taking environment. With continued use, these stimuli can become cues that promote drug relapse. The laboratory of Dr. Bruce hope at National Institute on Drug Abuse, Baltimore, USA, has been focused on figuring out how these memories are stored in the brain. They have identified sparsely distributed patterns of neurons in the brain called 'neuronal ensembles' that are selectively activated by drug-related cues and thought to encode the learned associations that mediate drug seeking behavior. Drug-related cues activate specific genes such as c-fos within these neuronal ensembles and allow us to identify them in the brain. They exploit the c-fos promoter to turn on different transgenes in transgenic rats that allow them to manipulate specific neuronal ensembles and assess their role in drug-related memories. They also developed a fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) procedure for purifying these activated ensembles and found unique molecular alterations within their cell bodies and synapses. They have developed novel c-fos-GFP transgenic rats that produce green fluorescent protein (GFP) in activated neurons and found unique synaptic alterations using slice electrophysiology. Using a combination of novel viruses and transgenic rats developed they continue to search and characterize drug-related memory engrams in the brain that promote drug relapse.Dr. Hope is the main international collaborator of many FAPESP projects (2013/24986-2, 2014/02296-7, 2015/01877-9), thus his visit will consolidated these collaboration. The program of his visit includes, lectures at University of Sao Paulo and Sao Paulo State University about new methodologies for examining neural ensemble in addiction, he will train people, who are involved in his project in collaboration, how to use his transgenic rats in their projects and due to his vast experience in editing scientific manuscript, he will give a course about how to write a scientific paper. (AU)

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