Neurons are finely tuned to extract computationally relevant features from synaptic inputs. This process is influenced heavily by neuromodulators, which can transiently retune neuronal processing by altering the properties of the membrane receptors and channels involved in synaptic transmission and cell excitability. Drugs of abuse disrupt neuromodulator signaling, ultimately producing long-lasting changes in the neuronal circuits that underlie addiction establishment, expression, and relapse.

Our lab is interested in understanding the mechanisms by which neuromodulators control excitability and synaptic integration and how the dysfunctions in these mechanisms contribute to addiction. We employ a variety of electrophysiological, optical, and genetic techniques to probe how these neurotransmitters alter information processing in various neuronal compartments, from synaptic inputs onto dendritic spines to transmitter release in axonal boutons. We hope that learning more about these mechanisms will lead to new targets for the treatment of addiction.

Lab Members

  • Rebecca Clarkson, Graduate Student
  • Alayna Liptak, Staff Research Associate
  • Gina Rinetti Vargas, Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Sungchil Yang, Postdoctoral Fellow


Kevin Bender’s publications