Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Jenkang Tao L&S Sciences

Role of Cocaine and Amphetamine-Regulated Transcript (CART) Peptide in Cocaine Addiction

Drugs of addiction use and “hijack” the neuronal systems normally used in reward learning, which makes finding a treatment specific for addiction highly problematic. Several biological markers of addiction have been identified and are potential treatment targets, but their relationship and role in addictive behavior remains unknown. One such marker is the cocaine and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptide that has been found to be upregulated in select groups of neurons in the brain following systemic injections of cocaine in animals. Although previous studies have characterized the CART peptide as a neuromodulator capable of blocking cocaine-mediated locomotor actions and rewarding properties, little is known about CART-expressing neurons and their role in drug addiction. My preliminary data suggests that the activity of CART-expressing neurons is necessary for the maintenance and expression of cocaine-induced behaviors. Using optogenetic and other neuromodulatory techniques, I will further assess the role of CART-expressing neurons in addictive behavior.

Message To Sponsor

I am extremely grateful to be selected as a SURF fellow to pursue full-time research for the summer at UC Berkeley. As an undergraduate interested in a possible career in academic medicine, this fellowship provides the opportunity to advance my research project as well as to further develop my research skills. I hope that my project will eventually lead to a publication to contributes to our overall understanding of neuroscience.
Major: Molecular and Cell Biology: Neurobiology, Bioengineering, Education (minor)
Mentor: Mu-Ming Poo, Molecular & Cell Biology
Sponsor: Pergo Fund
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