Marcelo Febo completed his PhD at the University of Puerto Rico Medical School and postdoctoral studies at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. His work focuses on measuring in vivo functional and structural changes in the rat brain following chronic drug exposure. Over the past decade he has pursued this goal through the use of high field functional magnetic resonance imaging in awake rats and mice. He has been funded early in his career by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to examine the relationship between cocaine sensitization and alterations in maternal brain activity. He is presently Program Director of Translational Research Imaging at the University of Florida Brain Institute and is also a faculty member of the Department of Psychiatry.
There is a growing literature supporting alterations in the functional interactions between multiple brain regions in addiction. Result from many study points beyond the mesolimbic system shows important associations between reward regions and areas of the brain regulating memory, emotions, habit formations, and cognitive functions. These areas include prefrontal cortical subregions, hippocampal and parahippocampal areas and anterior thalamic nuclei along with dorsal striatum. Our laboratory has applied a variety of experimental paradigms using functional MRI in rats to investigate putative neural circuits of drug and natural reward. Key to the strategy for examining brain function has been the use of techniques to image the unanesthetized rats. The initial work examined the direct pharmacodynamic actions of cocaine in the male and female rat brain. These studies provided an initial insight into the use of pharmacological MRI in awake rats and the regions directly activated by cocaine. In follow up experiments discussed at the conference, we explore interactions between sex and responsivity to cocaine, epigenetic modulation of cocaine-induced neuroadaptations. More recently we have used other methods to examine neuronal activity changes more directly with manganese enhanced MRI (MEMRI) and resting state functional connectivity analysis. The latter methods, along with the traditional fMRI techniques are gradually piecing together important properties of drug-induced changes in functionality in the in vivo rodent brain that can be used to guide the development of treatments.
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