The Beckstead Lab studies how dopamine neurons of the ventral midbrain contribute to voluntary movement, the processing of natural rewards, and the etiology of neurological disorders including Parkinson's disease and drug addiction.
Psychostimulants such as methamphetamine produce persistent synaptic changes in the brain. Unfortunately it is not well understood how different forms of plasticity lead to increased drug seeking and intake. We use operant self-administration of methamphetamine in mice to model human drug use, and combine this with electrophysiology to investigate the synaptic regulation of drug-related behaviors.
A second project in the lab is investigating how dopamine neuron physiology changes with age. We use patch clamp electrophysiology to identify age-related adaptations in both intrinsic ion conductances and extrinsic synaptic input.
Branch SY, Goertz RB, Sharpe AL, Pierce J, Roy S, Ko D, Paladini CA, Beckstead MJ. (2013) Food restriction increases glutamate receptor-mediated burst firing of dopamine neurons. J Neurosci. 2013 Aug 21;33(34):13861-72.
Branch SY, Beckstead MJ. (2012) Methamphetamine produces bidirectional, concentration-dependent effects on dopamine neuron excitability and dopamine-mediated synaptic currents. J Neurophysiol. 2012 Aug 1;108(3):802-9.
Sharpe AL, Klaus JD, Beckstead MJ. (2012) Meal schedule influences food restriction-induced locomotor sensitization to methamphetamine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Feb;219(3):795-803.