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Emma Cahill Project

Supervisor:  Emma Cahill

Co-supervisor:  Amy Milton


Control of aversive learning and memory by Noradrenaline and Dopamine interactions

Anxiety disorders are prevalent in our society but treatment options remain limited. We use animal models to further our understanding of how the brain learns and remembers signals of fear or threat and to identify new targets for pharmacological intervention.

Although it is well known that Noradrenaline (NA) and Dopamine (DA) innervate the amygdala and act there to regulate emotional behaviour such as fear and anxiety, the neural basis of their interactions is not well understood. In the amygdala, the role of DA receptors in the various stages of fear memory processing is understudied relative to its known contribution to appetitive learning.

In contrast, the NA system has been long appreciated to control the persistence of aversive memory. However, neither system acts in isolation. NA and DA signal through specific g-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) subtypes and signalling pathways where crosstalk between these two systems is likely to control behaviour. This project will inspect the anatomical co-expression of these GPCR in the amygdala circuitry network, explore their interactions at the level of cell signalling and investigate the impact of disrupting these interactions for the control of behaviour.

Relevant references:

1.  Fuxe, K et al. 2008. “Receptor-Receptor Interactions within Receptor Mosaics. Impact on Neuropsychopharmacology.” Brain research reviews 58(2): 415–52. (August 13, 2013).

2.  Montezinho, Liliana P. et al. 2006. “The Interaction between Dopamine D2-like and Beta-Adrenergic Receptors in the Prefrontal Cortex Is Altered by Mood-Stabilizing Agents.” Journal of Neurochemistry 96(5): 1336–48.

3.  Tully, Keith, and Vadim Y. Bolshakov. 2010. “Emotional Enhancement of Memory: How Norepinephrine Enables Synaptic Plasticity.” Molecular Brain 3(1): 1–9.

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