Mentor: Randy Blakely
Lorena Areal, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Associate, Biomedical Science, College of Medicine
Prior to joining the Blakely lab, I pursued Ph.D. studies in Neuroscience at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, where I investigated behavioral and molecular aspects of crack-cocaine and cocaine addiction in mouse models. In addition to addiction, the dopamine system is involved in many neuropsychiatric diseases. Furthermore, the dopamine transporter (DAT), a protein critical for regulation of dopamine neurotransmission, is not only the site of action for cocaine but also is a target for medications that treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As a postdoctoral fellow, I investigate mechanisms by which altered DAT function can drive risk for neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. My current research focuses on molecular, circuit, and behavioral alterations exhibited in the DAT Val559 mouse, where a DAT gene variant identified in patients diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder is expressed, with the ultimate goal of identifying better ways to diagnose and treat these disorders.