Jenica Tapocik is a Staff Neuroscientist in the Laboratory of Clinical & Translational Studies at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism. Jenica is studying addiction and is hoping to better understand how and why people become addicts. She is also studying the difference between the brains of addicted individuals and non-addicted individuals.
0:17 My name is Jenica Tapocik. I'm a staff scientist at
0:25 Right now I'm studying addiction, specifically
0:28 alcoholism and also opiate addiction as well.
0:31 So I'm actually a native Maryland. I grew up in Montgomery County.
0:35 I was always interested in science when I was young. I didn't really have any
0:39 experience with neuroscience
0:41 at first and it was always something that interests me, because I would walk into the
0:44 biology program and I'd see these cool pictures of neurons
0:47 that were lit up in green. And I was like, "Oh wow...this is so neat. This is something I could be
0:51 really, really interested in."
0:53 That is when really struck me...
0:56 as I...I really wanted to become a neuroscience researcher.
0:59 I'm doing behavior research, molecular research...seeing what's going on in the
1:04 Some of my family members do struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction and
1:08 in knowing that...I didn't know that that research insisted. I didn't know people
1:12 did that.
1:13 And when I found out that I could learn more about and understand it and see why
1:17 these people become addicted
1:19 and how can I help them...that really,
1:22 really made me interested in doing that research. There's a
1:26 couple different behavioral paradigms we do to
1:29 understand addiction...to see what are the behavioral consequences of becoming
1:33 addicted and how
1:35 do people become addicted. What is different from
1:39 the...the mechanisms in their brain versus somebody that is not addicted.
1:43 So we do a lot of molecular research to understand that. We look at
1:46 the neural networks...how they're connected...how do they...
1:50 how do they get disrupted after addiction. What genes are being affected
1:54 by that.
1:56 So what gene is being up or down regulated. And if we manipulated that gene,
2:00 could we reverse the behaviors that cause addiction. So those are kind of the main
2:04 things that I
2:05 study and research in the lab. We do do some microscopic work, so what we can do
2:09 is say we find a
2:11 a gene of interest or a protein interest... we can tag
2:14 that gene or protein with a fluorescence tag.
2:17 We can look at that under the microscope in say, "Oh where is that
2:21 gene or protein located in the brain by the fluorescence tag."
2:25 So this right here...this it
2:27 is a spine, so it's part of a neuron
2:30 thats in a brain. And we stained it with
2:34 with a red fluorescent protein. We look at it and see how are the spines changing.
2:57 So here...this is a technique called immunohistochemistry.
3:01 So what we're doing here is we are actually staining
3:04 our sections with an antibody.
3:11 And here we also
3:12 tag that particular antibody with a fluorescence protein...
3:15 so we're able to visualize it on the microscope and see which...
3:20 where and how much of the protein is actually being activated after we
3:24 run our preclinical models. So the
3:27 things that we find within our laboratory we're actually able to
3:32 basically walk next door and talk to the clinical
3:36 researchers to see if it's something that we can do to bring to the clinic to
3:41 people with addiction.
4:02 What I really love about my job is that I know that I can actually help people
4:07 because I've seen it. I've actually seen it. I have
4:10 done preclinical research. I have
4:13 actually found targets that we think are involved in addiction.
4:17 we've found them to be effective in our preclinical model
4:21 and we have walked next door and started
4:25 a clinical protocol to actually start treating addicts and that
4:30 is what really, really gets me going with this research.
4:33 It really makes me passionate...passionate about what I do.