DepartmentCellular and Integrative Physiology
Allison Brackley, Ph.D.
Glenn M. Toney, Ph.D.
Dr. Brackley is currently working on two primary research projects in Dr. Toney’s laboratory. The first aims to investigate neural mechanisms involved in sodium-induced cross-sensitization of reward systems and seeking behaviors. Salt is perhaps the most frequently abused substance in modern society. Because emerging evidence implicates the endogenous opioid system in salt appetite and need-free sodium intake, an unmet need exists for the identification of opioid-mediated mechanisms that prime reward circuits to support salt addiction. This project will use the primal need that mammals have for salt as a novel means to access and reinforce the circuit elements, as well as neurochemical and synaptic mechanisms, that promote addiction and seeking behavior for a variety of rewarding substances, especially illicit drugs.
The second aims to investigate the neurocircuitry that underlies the propagation of sleep apnea-related opioid-induced respiratory depression. There is an important interrelationship between opioids, sleep apnea, and overdose. Given that chronic opioid use dose-dependently increases sleep apnea in humans and that sleep apnea increases opioid sensitivity, patients with sleep apnea have a high risk in the clinic for opioid-induced respiratory depression and subsequent overdose. Thus, an unmet need exists to identify the neurocircuitry that underlies the propagation of sleep apnea-related opioid-induced respiratory complications. Understanding these neurochemical and synaptic mechanisms may lead to identification of safer therapeutic options for this patient population. Dr. Brackley’s projects involve concurrent slice patch-clamp electrophysiology and Ca2+ imaging, optogenetics, nerve recordings, in vivo electrophysiology, microinjections, viral transduction, neuroanatomical methods, and integrative whole animal approaches.