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Neuroscience PhD at Wake Forest University at Wake Forest University


Wake Forest University Graduate School » Neuroscience PhD at Wake Forest University

Wayne Pratt

Wayne Pratt
The nucleus accumbens and its interconnected circuitry play an important role in promoting food intake in response to the presentation of particularly palatable, rewarding foods.  The proliferation of such diets in modern culture is likely one of the multiple environmental factors that underlies the current obesity epidemic.  Using the rat as an experimental model, and employing behavioral pharmacological techniques, my laboratory examines how neurotransmitter systems interact in brain reward pathways to direct motivated behavior. Most recently, my students and I have been examining the functional roles of nucleus accumbens acetylcholine, serotonin, opioid, and cannabinoid receptors in the direction of food-seeking and consumption.

 

My research interests are focused on understanding the neurobiological substrates that underlie the brain’s encoding of natural rewards. In particular, I am interested in how rewards are signaled and communicated between brain regions, and how neural circuits select adaptive behaviors based on motivation and reinforcement history. As such, the research done in my laboratory examines brain function as it relates to motivation, learning, and memory. Recently, my laboratory has been probing the roles of several neurotransmitters within the nucleus accumbens in food-directed motivation. The nucleus accumbens is a brain region within basal ganglia pathways that is involved in learning about and directing behavior towards stimuli in the environment that are rewarding or predict rewarding outcomes. Together with other neural circuits, the nucleus accumbens directs voluntary behavior based upon reinforcement history and has been heavily implicated in the neurobiology of drug addiction. Recent evidence suggests that the nucleus accumbens and its interconnected circuitry also play an important role in promoting food intake in response to the presentation of particularly palatable, rewarding foods. The proliferation of such diets in modern culture is likely one of the multiple environmental factors that underlies the current obesity epidemic. Using the rat as an experimental model, and employing behavioral pharmacological techniques, my laboratory examines how neurotransmitter systems interact in brain reward pathways to direct motivated behavior. Most recently, my students and I have been examining the functional roles of nucleus accumbens acetylcholine, serotonin, opioid, and cannabinoid receptors in the direction of food-motivated behaviors.

 

Pratt, W. E., Blackstone, K., Connolly, M., & Skelly, M. J. (2009). Selective Serotonin Receptor Stimulation of the Medial Nucleus Accumbens Causes Differential Effects on Food Intake and Locomotion. Behavioral Neuroscience, 123(5):1046-57. Pratt, W. E., & Blackstone, K. (2009). Nucleus accumbens acetylcholine and food intake: Decreased muscarinic tone reduces feeding but not food-seeking. Behavioural Brain Research, 198(1), 252-257. Pratt, W. E., Spencer, R.C., & Kelley, A. E. (2007). Muscarinic receptor antagonism of the Nucleus accumbens core causes avoidance to flavor and spatial cues. Behavioral Neuroscience, 121(6), 1215-23. Pratt, W. E., & Kelley, A. E. (2004). Nucleus accumbens acetylcholine regulates appetitive learning and motivation for food via activation of muscarinic receptors. Behavioral Neuroscience, 118(4), 730-739. Will, M. J.*, Pratt, W. E.*, & Kelley, A. E. (2006). Pharmacological characterization of high fat feeding induced by opioid stimulation of the ventral striatum. Physiology and Behavior, 89(2), 226-34. (*equivalent contribution) Kelley, A. E., Baldo, B. A., Pratt, W. E., & Will, M. J. (2005) Corticostriatal-hypothalamic circuitry and food motivation: Integration of energy, reward, and action. Physiology and Behavior, 86(5), 773-795.