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One thrust of our research program is focused on understanding the consequences of intrauterine exposure to drugs of abuse. We have pursued an animal model (in mice) to study neuropathologic, behavioral, electrophysiologic, and neurochemical alterations induced by gestational exposure to cocaine, and pursue molecular analyses to better understand their molecular underpinnings. In addition, we utilize high resolution structural (MR microscopy) and functional (fMRI) magnetic resonance brain imaging methods in rodents to identify structural and functional consequences of recurrent exposure to cocaine, including studies in adult animals. Recently we have applied computer-based methods for morphometric analyses of the MR scans of 9-12 year olds following intrauterine exposure to drugs of abuse. Our approach is to use such sophisticated imaging methods as a foil for bi-directional translational research, which we are applying to study the impact of prenatal exposure to drugs of abuse on the developing brain.
Parallel research programs are being developed in the areas of radiation-induced necrosis following radiotherapy for brain tumors, genetic etiologies of cortical malformation, including microcephaly, and identification of psychostimulant-induced molecular neuroadaptations underlying the addicted state.