Current Research Interests:
Our lab focuses on understanding the genetic, environmental and neurobiological factors that contribute to individual differences in reward learning and susceptibility to mental illness, including addiction. We are interested in the psychological mechanisms that underlie and influence appetitive Pavlovian learning and the neural circuitry involved in these processes.
We use a combined approach of behavioral, pharmacological, molecular and chemogenetic tools in order to better understand the biological bases of motivated behavior. Our research to-date has primarily focused on the role of dopamine in stimulus-reward learning; and more recently, we have begun to investigate the role of cortico-thalamo-striatal pathways in these processes. In addition, we continue to study the impact of stressful events and how hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis physiology might contribute to individual differences in emotionality and response to the environment.
Our ultimate goal is to uncover the neurobiological mechanisms that that drive maladaptive behavior in hopes of identifying novel pharmacological targets for the treatment of addiction and other mental illnesses.
Flagel SB , Robinson TE,
Neurobiological basis of individual variation in stimulus-reward learning.
Curr Opin Behav Sci, 13:178-185, Feb. 2017
Haight JL, Fuller ZL, Fraser K, Flagel SB,
A food-predictive cue attributed with incentive salience engages subcortical afferents and efferents of the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus.
Neuroscience, 340:135-152, Jan 2017
Flagel SB, Chaudhury S, Waselus M, Kelly R, Thompson RT, Watson SJ, Akil H,
Genetic background and epigenetic modifications in the core of the nucleus accumbens predict addiction-like behavior in a rat model.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 113(20):E2861-70, May 2016.
Fraser K, Haight J, Gardner E, Flagel SB,
Examining the role of dopamine D2 and D3 receptors in Pavlovian Conditioned Approach Behaviors.
Behavioral Brain Research, 305:87-99, May 2016.
Morrow JD, Flagel SB ,
Neuroscience of Resiliency and Vulnerability for Addiction Medicine: From Genes to Behavior.
Progress in Brain Research, Neuroscience for Addiction Medicine, 223:3-18, 2016.
Haight JL, Fraser KM, Flagel SB,
Lesions of the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus differentially affect sign- and goal-tracking conditioned responses.
European Journal of Neuroscience, 42(7):2478-88, Oct 2015
Haight JL, Flagel SB ,
A potential role for the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus in mediating individual variation in Pavlovian conditioned responses.
Front Behav Neurosci, 8:79, March 2014
View publications on PubMed - NCBI