Morikawa Lab - Research

The primary focus of Morikawa lab is to investigate neural plasticity in the mesostriatal dopaminergic system underlying reward-based learning and the development of addiction. We are particularly interested in the cellular mechanisms driving calcium-dependent regulation of neuronal activity and plasticity. Using brain slice electrophysiology, calcium imaging, and UV photolysis of caged compounds, my lab has been conducting studies investigating the role of calcium signaling in regulating physiology and plasticity of neurons in the mesostriatal dopaminergic system. We have also implemented behavioral assays (e.g., conditioned place preference, food conditioned approach, etc.) combined with stereotaxic injection of pharmacological agents and viruses to manipulate specific brain areas. In this way, we aim to link specific signaling processes at the cellular and molecular level to learning processes and addictive behavior in behaving animals. Our latest interest is on the impact of daily life experience (stress, diet, exercise, etc.) on these processes to determine the risk factors and therapeutic strategies for neuropyschiatric conditions arising from dysregulation of the dopaminergic system, such as addiction, schizophrenia, and depression.