In 2007, I completed my Ph.D. in lab of Dr. Eric Nestler, at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, focusing on addiction and psychiatric disorders in animal models. By using tools in molecular biology such as viral-mediated gene transfer, I was able to alter behaviors related to reward and addiction, such as drug and sucrose intake, as well as modify measures of anxiety and depression behaviors. Ultimately, I wanted to move into translational human studies, which led me to pursue a post-doctoral position in the D’Esposito lab.
Dopamine is known to play a role in reward-related behavior, and the dysfunction of this neurotransmitter is additionally observed in many psychiatric disorders. I am interested in studying the effects of dopamine on components of working memory in non-addicted individuals as a post-doctoral researcher, which will allow me to later apply these imaging techniques in psychiatric populations. With these cognitive studies as a foundation, I plan to also explore the effect of reward on cognitive efficiency, and the role of DA in this relationship.