Rubén García Cabrerizo
Research Title: Role of microbiota as a regulator of reward pathways
Project Background: Social interactions are fundamental to the mental health and well-being of an individual. A lack of social support during adolescence, due to parents neglected, bullying, or social exclusion, can induce the probability to develop psychiatric illnesses containing an important stress component such as depression or anxiety. These negative experiences during adolescence (i.e., a period of transition between childhood and adult life, which is critical for neurodevelopment) increase the likelihood of substance use and addiction in adulthood and such effects are sex dependent. There is accumulating evidence that microbiota could play a pivotal role affecting central neurochemistry and the development of psychiatric disorders. However, to the date, there are a paucity of studies examining the link between the microbiota and rewarding properties of drug of abuse. Thus, this project’s overall objective is to determine the influence of social isolation during adolescence on the motivation for cocaine and the role of gut microbiota. Moreover, differential effects between sexes will be examined. Male and female mice will be exposed to an early-life stress (i.e., social isolation) during adolescence and will be conditioned with cocaine in adulthood to assess the reward response. Furthermore, the effects of a pre- or probiotic treatment on ameliorating the social isolation effects on drug reward will be evaluated. Finally, we will take advantage using TRAP (Targeted Recombination in Active Populations), DREADDS (Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs) and optogenetics to delineate the specific signaling pathways between gut and brain involved in drug reward. This proposal will be key to understand how changes in microbiota interact with the brain to alter reward related responses.