Picture of Dr. Alvarez, Chief of the Laboratory on Neurobiology of Compulsive Behaviors

Veronica A. Alvarez, PhD, Chief

Laboratory on Neurobiology of Compulsive Behaviors

5625 Fishers Lane, Room TN-41, MSC9411
Bethesda, MD 20892-9411
Office: (301) 443-7695
Lab: (301) 443-3769
Fax: (301) 480-8035

E-mail: alvarezva@mail.nih.gov

CV (pdf-file 41 kB); Web pages: Alvarez at Neuroscience @ NIH, Intramural Research Program (IRP)


Mission statement

Our research is aimed at uncovering the circuits and synaptic mechanisms mediating reward motivated behaviors and compulsive drug use. Specifically, the goal is to better understand how cocaine and ethanol affect synapses and neuronal connectivity to drive the development of compulsive seeking that characterizes individuals suffering from cocaine abuse or alcohol use disorder. Our research focuses on drug actions in the cortico-mesolimbic circuit, with an emphasis on the nucleus accumbens. We combine physiological with behavioral analysis and use cutting-edge approaches, such as in vivo and in vitro optogenetic and chemico-genetic tools, to manipulate the activity of targeted neuronal populations and dissect their role in ethanol and cocaine related behaviors. Our overarching hypothesis is that cocaine and ethanol induce different adaptations on the two distinct subpopulations of medium spiny neurons in the striatum, direct- and indirect-pathway neurons, and that both pathways contribute differently to the psychomotor, rewarding and addictive properties of these drugs of abuse.