Mental Health Research

‘Investigating the role of Prefrontal Cortex interneurons in Methamphetamine induced plasticity in the Nucleus Accumbens’

The Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health
University of Melbourne, VIC
Awarded 2019

Many sufferers have a long life ahead of them so finding treatments that facilitate relapse prevention and cessation of drug use are essential in rehabilitating users.”

Researcher Profile

Anna completed a Bachelor of Science in 2014 at The University of Melbourne majoring in neuroscience and anatomy. Upon completion she undertook an honours degree in neuroscience at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health within the Addiction Neuroscience lab. After honours Anna worked for three years as a research assistant at the Florey researching the relationship between food addiction and diet-induced obesity in rodents using electrophysiology.

Anna is currently starting her PhD moving into the area of Methamphetamine addiction at the Florey and the University of Melbourne.

Project Summary

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive substance where chronic use can lead to drug dependence and addiction. It is a chronic relapsing disorder, with a reported 61% of users relapsing within 1 year of treatment. Relapse is the major hurdle to successful treatment of meth addiction as current interventions do not appear to be long-lasting, with no available pharmacotherapies on the market.

The transition to drug addiction has been linked to changes in areas of the brain associated with reward processing and involves cognitive functions including decision making processes, memory formation, perception, goal-directed and motivated behaviours. Changes in these reward centres of the brain can lead to alterations in behaviour that lead to increased drug taking and seeking and ultimately addiction.

This research project will investigate a potential novel target for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction. To do this I will manipulate parts of the brain responsible for decision making and cognitive processing and look at the effects on drug taking behaviour. There is a certain cell type within these parts of the brain that has not yet been investigated for its role in addiction. I want to see if we can activate and inactive these cells and look at the effect on methamphetamine seeking and relapse behaviour in rodents. If successful, this project will provide a potential new therapeutic target for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction and relapse.

Supervisors: Dr Robyn Brown & Professor Andrew Lawrence