Spatiotemporal dynamics of neuromodulator/GPCR systems

Our brains produce neuromodulators, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, which are essential to healthy brain functions that control everything from learning and motivation to pain sensation and decision making. At the cellular level, neuromodulators exert control by activating cell surface receptors called G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). Mammalian brains express over 300 different, highly conserved GPCRs, many of which have been suggested as promising targets for the development of new treatments for neurological diseases. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recently listed their top targets for developing new pharmacological treatments for opioid use disorder, and 90% of them are GPCRs.

In the O’Neill Lab, we focus on developing new imaging and optogenetic methods to interrogate GPCR signaling in healthy and diseased brains, over scales ranging from individual synapses to whole brain neuroanatomy. Our goal is to provide technologies that can be widely adopted by neuroscientists with diverse research interests. We also engage in collaborations in order to apply our tools to better understand drug addiction.