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Shelly Flagel

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Primary Appointment: Psychiatry Department
Primary PIBS Dept.: Neuroscience
PubMed Name: Flagel Shelly B.
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  We are a behavioral neuroscience lab focused on understanding both the behavioral and neurobiological factors that contribute to individual differences in reward learning and susceptibility to addiction. We are interested in the psychological mechanisms that underlie and influence appetitive Pavlovian learning and the neural circuitry involved in these processes. We use a combined approach of behavioral, pharmacological and molecular tools in order to better understand the biological bases of motivated behavior. Our research to-date has focused on the reward and limbic circuitry with an emphasis on the role of dopamine in stimulus-reward learning. In addition, we continue to study the impact of stressful events and how hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis physiology might contribute to individual differences in responsiveness to the environment. The behavioral paradigms we use include, but are not limited to, classical Pavlovian conditioning, drug self-administration, and psychomotor sensitization resulting from repeated drug exposure. Further, as a means to better understand the neurobiological processes underlying these behaviors, we use stereotaxic and immunohistochemical procedures as well as in situ hybridization histochemistry. We have ongoing collaborations with the laboratories of Drs. Huda Akil, Stan Watson and Terry Robinson, which allow us to use an integrative approach to understanding how environmental, psychological and neurobiological factors interact to render one more or less susceptible to mental illness, including addiction.