Headshot portrait of Ricardo Lopez - Bio-X Undergraduate Fellow
2021 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

Home Department: Biology
Mentor: Boris Heifets (Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine)

“Cell-Type Specific Modulation of Hedonic Feeding”

Hedonic feeding is a hallmark of binge-eating behaviors. During this phenomenon, the rewarding qualities of food motivate intake that exceeds metabolic demand. The neural circuits governing the rewarding properties of food are incompletely understood. The nucleus accumbens, a basal forebrain region receiving extensive dopaminergic projections, operates as an integral node in reward and aversion processing. Ricardo is investigating the contributions of specific neuronal subtypes in the nucleus accumbens to hedonic feeding. Using a chemogenetic approach, we selectively activated and inhibited accumbal neurons in rodent models during the development of excessive high-fat intake. In doing so, we could assess how unique neuronal subtypes influence the rewarding characteristics of high-fat.