Dr. Hugo Leite-Almeida

2015 IASP Early Career Research Grant Winner

Institute: ICVS/3B's - PT Government Associate Laboratory, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal

Project: "Impulsive decision-making in rats with chronic neuropathic pain – the role of accumbal dopaminergic (dys)function"

Dr. Hugo Leite-AlmeidaThe ability to make decisions is a fundamental component of behavior. The mesolimbic network is critical in these processes, and it has been repeatedly demonstrated to undergo maladaptive plasticity in chronic pain patients and in related experimental animal models. Despite robust evidence of maladaptive plasticity in chronic pain conditions, no study has yet focused on its impact in decision-making strategies. The aim of this project is to study mesolimbic function associated with impulsive decision-making in chronic pain conditions. For this purpose, rats with spared nerve injury will be evaluated in the variable delay-to-signal task for impulsivity. Simultaneously, local field potentials will be registered in the nucleus accumbens, dorsal striatum, medial and orbital frontal cortices. The impact of chronic pain in the function of each of these areas as well as in the functional coherence between them will be evaluated. Finally, analgesic pharmacotherapy and optogenetic manipulation of accumbal D2 receptor activity (key for motivated instrumental behavior) will be employed attempting to ameliorate the behavioral phenotypes. The project will provide new information regarding executive function impairments that frequently are comorbid with chronic pain and D2 receptor’s role in these manifestations.

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