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I did my BA in Psychology at University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez (UPRM). After having a summer research experience at University of Connecticut (UConn) I was accepted as a graduate student. Currently I am finishing my 2nd year in Behavioral Neuroscience PhD program at University of Connecticut.
I focus on motivation in animal models of depression, My colleagues and I understand motivations as having two main aspects; activational and directional. The directional aspect refers to the behavior being directed towards or away from particular stimuli or conditions. However, the activational aspect is the behavior characterized by high levels of activity, vigor, persistence which enables the organism to overcome response cost or constraints. Furthermore, organisms continually make effort-related decisions based upon cost/benefit analyses. This activational component has implications for psychiatry such as dysfunctions of behavioral activation that are related to psychomotor slowing, apathy, anergia and fatigue seen in depression and other disorders. Over the last few years, our laboratory has developed behavioral models in animals that are useful for assessing the role of various neurotransmitters in the exertion of effort and effort-related choice behavior (high palatable/high effort vs low palatable/low effort choice). Dopamine (DA) particularly in nucleus accumbens, is a critical link in the brain circuitry involved in behavioral activation, exertion of effort and effort-related choice. My current work involves the use of our behavioral model designed in our lab to assess’ depressive-like symptoms in rats. This model consists of three general components: the induction of depressive-like symptoms (drugs involved in DA signaling), the reversal or attenuation of these symptoms (antidepressant that targets DA) and the behavioral assessment (T-maze, operant conditioning chambers).
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