We use a multi-prong approach to understand the contribution and interplay of genes and the environment to the development of addictive disorders, and provide neurobiological insights that innovate and advance treatment and intervention. Combining standard molecular biological techniques such as in situ hybridization, qPCR, and biochemical assays with innovative methods such as next-generation sequencing and viral-mediated manipulations of discrete neuronal pathways, this Project investigates neurobiological disturbances associated addiction to heroin and cocaine. Epigenetic mechanisms including DNA methylation, histone modifications, and microRNAs are evaluated in relation to the regulation of gene expression within distinct neuronal populations of the mesocorticolimbic and striatal circuits. This work is performed both on animal models and on postmortem brain tissue from individuals with an addictive disorder or matched control subjects.
(Right) Figure shows an opening of the GRIA1 gene, predicted based on ATAC-seq data, in dorsal striatal neurons from human heroin users (red) compared to control subjects (blue). From Egervari et al., Biol Psychiatry, 2017