Our Research

Research Focus

The Lavin Lab explores prefrontal cortex synaptic and cellular mechanisms that underlie neuropsychiatric  disorders, such drug addiction, and neurodevelopmental disorders. The lab utilizes a broad array of experimental approaches to gain a better understanding about the underlying regulation, or dysregulation, of typical brain function, and they take an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to address these important topics for human mental health.

Drug Addiction

The lab employs a range of   ex vivo electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral techniques to understand how abused substances affect cognitive process in prefrontal cortex resulting in addiction-related behaviors. Through identification of the cellular and synaptic changes that occur in the prefrontal cortex after repeated exposed to drugs of abuse, we ultimately seek reinstate normal cortical function and cognitive performance.  Ongoing studies seek to identify the synaptic and cellular mechanisms by which drugs of abuse affect cognitive process in the prefrontal cortex resulting in inability to stop using drugs and /or cycles of abstinence and relapse. 

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The Cowan Lab has uncovered key brain development roles for several genes linked to risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, intellectual disability and schizophrenia. These molecules appear to work together during typical brain development to control the proper establishment of excitatory and inhibitory connections in the brain. Genetic abnormalities in these genes in humans often produce intellectual disability and autism-associated symptoms, and the lab observes similar symptoms in mice engineered to have disruptions in these same genes. By understanding the genetic and molecular underpinnings of autism spectrum disorders, the lab hopes to identify new therapeutic targets for treatment of autism, intellectual disability and related neurodevelopmental disorders in humans.