The oxytocin system in sugar and alcohol intake

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Number of Honour Places Available
Number of Master Places Available
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Phil Ryan
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Prof Andrew Lawrence

Summary The Addiction Neuroscience Laboratory at Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. Our overarching research aim is to understand the brain mechanisms that drive drug and alcohol-seeking, and relapse to drug-seeking after a period of abstinence. We are also interested in the effects of chronic drug and alcohol intake on cognition and behaviour. Our lab employs a range of different behavioural and molecular techniques to investigate cellular and circuitry changes that occur as a result of exposure to drugs and alcohol, and how these changes may lead to the compulsive behaviour that is characteristic of addiction.

Project Details

Oxytocin is well-recognised for its role in labour, lactation and social interaction; however, it is also known to be involved in regulating fluid and salt intake. We have recently discovered a population of neurons that express the receptor for oxytocin and are located in the parabrachial nucleus of the hindbrain, which robustly suppress water and saline (NaCl) intake, but not food intake. We are now interested in investigating whether these neurons may also play a role in suppressing sugar, alcohol and non-caloric saccharin intake, which may suggest a role in addictive-like behaviours.
We will use genetically-modified mice that allow us to selectively manipulate this neuronal population by techniques such as optogenetics and DREADDs (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs). We are also interested in directly observing these neurons using calcium imaging techniques, which allow us to visualise activity in the neurons in real-time while the mice are actively drinking. The project will also involve anatomical and electrophysiological studies to map out the neural circuitry of fluid intake. 

Research Opportunities

PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

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