Patrick Rothwell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience. His research lab investigates the synaptic organization and behavioral function of basal ganglia circuits in health and disease. His interests include regulation of these circuits by endogenous opioid signaling, as well as the detrimental effects of chronic exposure to exogenous opioids, with a broad goal of reducing the abuse liability of opioid-based clinical therapies.
Modulation of striatal circuits in health and disease Brain disorders and mental illness represent a tremendous social and economic burden, with few effective treatments. The goal of our research is to identify the causes of brain conditions, and develop interventions to restore healthy function using synaptic plasticity and neuromodulation. We study the striatum, and important brain region for both simple and complex movements and cognitive functions. The striatum contains a variety of cell types, which receive synaptic input from many different sources and relay information through the basal ganglia. We examine the function of neural circuits formed by striatal synapses that connect specific sources and targets. Our multidisciplinary approach includes quantitative analysis of gene expression; genetic and molecular manipulations of neural circuits; measurement of synaptic function and plasticity using electrophysiology; and optogenetic stimulation of circuits in brain slices and behaving animals. Our current research focuses on autism spectrum disorders and drug addiction - two brain conditions that affect overlapping elements of striatal circuitry.