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Kristin Gosselink, Ph.D., Laura, O’Dell, Ph.D., Manuel Miranda, Ph.D.
The major goal of this work is to determine the central nervous system pathways and mechanisms that are modified by stress and contribute to increased vulnerability for substance use and abuse

Additionally, we will examine developmental and sex-based differences in stress susceptibility that may contribute to altered drug use behavior in adolescents compared to adults, and in females compared to males. Our hypothesis is that repeated exposure to psychological stress will potentiate dopaminergic and other brain mechanisms, resulting in enhanced vulnerability to methamphetamine use in stressed individuals. We further hypothesize that these adaptations will be exaggerated in female and adolescent subjects compared to adult males, such that a greater sensitivity to stress-induced drug use will be seen in these populations.

This research will add significantly to the field by linking environmental and biological influences relevant to drug use at the mechanistic level, helping us to identify new therapeutic targets or approaches. Furthermore, this project will draw from the expertise of established scientists to enhance the professional development of a new investigator in the field of substance abuse and addiction. Lastly, the performance of this research will involve minority graduate and undergraduate students who, through the training and mentoring described herein, will contribute to the strength and diversity of the scientific workforce in the future. Results from our experiments and those proposed in the pilot projects of the training grant will inform one another as they progress, providing a critical foundation for future studies into mechanisms of vulnerability to drug use and addiction, serving the mission of our “VIDA” program.

This is particularly relevant to our predominantly Hispanic community residing along the U.S./Mexico border, where health disparities and co-morbid conditions are prevalent and the people are subject to multiple factors that may contribute to or protect against the risk for substance abuse. It is expected that vulnerability in this population will be highly influenced by stress, which may be worsened or alleviated by factors such as age, sex, immigration and acculturation, family, religion, other chronic illness, socioeconomic status, education, and language.