Smruti Patel – Cocaine addiction and relapse

(music playing) Smruti Patel: Cocaine addiction is something
that affects millions of people in America and all over the world, so what our lab is
doing is we’re trying to see how cocaine addicts, how their brains are altered during addiction,
and that which would help us understand how to in the future make treatments and therapies
for this, for this problem, and so we like to call it studying how the brain encodes
drug seeking behavior, because behavior is such an important part of addiction, so specifically
what we do is we measure the neural activities in the brain and we see how it is changed
during cocaine addiction in rats, so we’re studying rats, and we also look at it during
relapse, when there is no drug involved in the paradigm. So far, we’ve understood that there are specific
areas in the brain that are involved in addiction and you know, it facilitating the behavior
or drug seeking and that’s a specific part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens,
and there are different parts of that brain area which are involved separately in addition
in terms of seeking drug and making the movements to get the drug. In our paradigm, the rats
press a lever to get drug. I’m a psychology major, I’m also a neuroscience major, so I
was also interested in how the two areas intersect and overlap and I was very interested in science
and research to begin with, and Aresty has helped me basically get more involved in that
research, you know, go look for an advisor and get started, and also, it helps me with
my funding for the research which is very helpful because I can do a lot of other things
such as go to conferences and present my research. That really prepared me for a bigger conference
that I went to earlier this year, which is neuroscience in Washington DC, and that was
in front of all the, the whole field of neuroscience, basically, people from all over the world,
and that really prepared me to be able to speak in front of people who are even more
advanced in this type of research. My professor is Dr. Mark West. He is very involved in what
I’m doing every day. It’s very hands on, you know, I can speak to him all the time about
any problems that I’m having in terms of running experiments and things like that. He’s also
a physiological psychology professor, so that’s really helped his background in how he teaches
and things like that. That’s really helped me because I was very interested in the subject
to begin with. My future plans are to go to medical school and I’m very interested in
the field of neurology and neurosurgery and doing this research and being in this lab
has really helped me because I’ve been able to watch surgeries with rat brains, yes, but
I’ve actually been able to watch brain surgery being done, even if it is in an animal model,
it’s really helped me understand that there are multiple facets to the brain and that’s
really, it promotes my interest in neurosurgery and neurology for the future. (music playing)

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