Our Research

Research in the Chandler Lab seeks to understand the fundamental processes that underlie the plasticity of the nervous system. In particular, we are investigating how the brain changes and adapts in response exposure to drugs of abuse and alcohol. Plasticity refers to the ability of the brain to undergo both structural and functional changes. It is a necessary process that allows us to adapt and learn from our environment and is fundamental to our survival. However, under certain conditions, these neuroadaptive responses can have adverse consequences. Increasing evidence indicates that plastic processes are co-opted by drugs of abuse, leading to addiction and associated drug-seeking behaviors. A particular focus of our studies is how alcohol abuse during either adolescence or adulthood alters cognitive control of behavior by the prefrontal cortex to promote the transition from controlled, social drinking, to uncontrolled drinking in spite of negative consequences. Our funded research projects include investigating how alcohol abuse during adolescence may alter a person's ability to successfully cope with a traumatic event later in life that can lead to PTSD and abuse of alcohol. Our research employs a wide variety of approaches that include molecular and cellular techniques, confocal analysis of synaptic organization, in-vitro and in-vivo electrophysiology, optogenetic and chemogenetic manipulations of neuronal circuits, and a variety of operant and non-operant behavioral paradigms.