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Neuroscience Brown Bag Series

Thursday, September 20, 2018,
  • Location: Wilson Hall • 111 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: 316

Chris Smith, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow-Zald Lab

Department of Psychology

Vanderbilt University 

"Individual Differences in Choice, Subjective Valuation, and Dopamine Signaling as Potential Markers for Drug Abuse Risk"

Dopamine signaling is associated with a variety of reward-related and cognitive behaviors. My work seeks to understand the key biological and environmental differences that modulate dopamine signaling. In this talk, I will discuss how genetic and neuroimaging measures (both functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, fMRI; and Positron Emission Tomography, PET) can be used to probe the effect of both striatal and prefrontal dopamine on behavior. Specifically, I will focus on how dopamine signaling impacts impulsive behavior, assessed via personality and behavioral measures. One impulsive behavior of particular interest is immediate reward selection bias, or the tendency to choose a smaller reward available Now over a larger reward available Later. A bias for immediate reward has been linked with drug addiction and I will show additional evidence that it serves as a useful endophenotype (manifestation of underlying disease liability) for alcohol use disorder. Given this, understanding the neural and neurocognitive modulators of immediate reward bias may be useful in improving healthier, long-term choices over immediate gratification. I will discuss a few of the modulators of immediate reward bias, including genetics, age, sex, the female hormone estradiol, and measures of both prefrontal and striatal dopamine signaling.

Understanding the biological bases for individual differences in immediate reward bias and other motivated behaviors will allow for the development of more targeted treatment approaches for individuals either at risk for or currently suffering from drug/alcohol abuse and/or dependence. Moreover, findings from my work on modulators of dopamine signaling have implications for treating a variety of dopamine-related disorders including schizophrenia, ADHD, and Parkinson’s Disease.