Current Research Projects
Project 1: Neuropeptide Regulation of Binge Eating and Cocaine-Seeking
More recent studies have studied the impact of a high fat and high sugar diet on the occurrence of other motivated behaviors. Studies from my laboratory have explored the impact of the orexin system as a target for increasing the propensity of binge eating prone (a hallmark of obesity) animals to develop drug-seeking behavior. We have demonstrated that binge prone and binge resistant rats respond differently to orexin receptor-1 antagonism and can be a potential target for treatment obesity and cocaine addiction.
Project 2: Influence of Neuropeptide Regulation and Gut Microbiota on Foraging and Food Choice
The gut microbiota may communicate with the brain to ensure that food intake and energy expenditure are maintained by influencing foraging and food choice. It is possible that the relationship between the gut, its microbial community and the brain is bidirectional, and one possible neuropeptide system in the brain that may contribute to this communication is the orexin system. This project uses a rodent, behavioral model of food choice to identify male and female rodents with high or low-preference for a particular diet and then use pharmacological manipulations of the orexin system to analyze shifts in structure and diversity of microbial communities.