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Dr. Barker’s primary research interest is in dissecting the neural circuits that contribute to the development of neuropsychiatric illnesses characterized by inflexible behavior. Her lab combines traditional and cutting edge techniques to investigate how these circuits function in an intact system to mediate behavioral flexibility and how deficits in control over actions may result from insults such as drug and alcohol exposure or progressive infection.

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Selected Funded Projects

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NIAAA R21AA027629

Sex differences in regulation of reinstatement of ethanol seeking by nucleus accumbens glutamate signaling

These studies will combine fiber photometry with molecular techniques to investigate sex differences in the contribution of discrete neural circuits to relapse-related behaviors in ethanol dependent male and female mice. 


PI: Barker

Team: Giacometti, Buck, Curran-Alfaro

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W.W. Smith Charitable Trust

Ovarian hormone regulation of drug seeking and astrocyte function in progressive HIV

The major goals of this proposal are to investigate factors mediating relapse-related behavior in a preclinical model of HIV infection, with a specific focus on progesterone regulation of behavior and astrocyte signaling as mediators of relapse. This will combine pharmacology, chemogenetics, and fiber photometry to investigate reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior.


PI: Barker

Co-I: Giacometti

Team: Side

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Integrating preclinical models to develop converging mechanistic data in co-occurring HIV and substance use

These studies combine intersectional viral strategies with preclinical models of progressive HIV infection to identify strategies to reduce inflexible drug seeking in HIV infection and cART treatment. We will identify circuit- and cell type-specific alterations in humanized mice infected with HIV-1, and wild-type mice infected with a chimeric virus to generate parallel data sets. 


PI: Barker

Team: Xie, Namba, Buck, Hemdal

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NIAAA F31AA029621

Low dose ethanol effects on reward seeking and motivation

These studies will investigate the effects of chronic low dose ethanol exposure on the patterns of reward seeking behavior. They further combine in vivo electrophysiology and closed loop optogenetic to investigate the role of the ventral hippocampus in mediating these effects.

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PI: Bryant

Mentor: Barker, Co-Mentor Espana

Other Ongoing Projects

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Effects of chronic neuropathic pain on ethanol seeking

Led by: Mitch Nothem

These studies combine behavioral analyses with pharmacological studies and in vivo electrophysiology to investigate altered alcohol seeking in a mouse model of chronic neuropathic pain.

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Sex and estrous cycle mediated differences in ethanol seeking 

Led by: Laura Giacometti

These studies investigate behavioral, molecular, and circuit-level differences between males and females at baseline and in response to insults, including exposure to chronic intermittent ethanol or infection.

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