The Salinas lab studies the role of the basal ganglia in neurodegenerative disorders and motivated behaviors, including alcohol and substance use disorders. More specifically, we are interested in the interaction of neurotransmitter systems (e.g. dopamine and acetylcholine) to modulate synaptic plasticity and the neural circuits that shape behavior under normal and pathological conditions. The lab employs traditional pharmacology, behavior, electrophysiology and electrochemistry techniques coupled with chemo- and optogenetic tools (including fluorescent biosensors for various neurotransmitters) to carry out our research objectives.
The lab is currently funded by a NIH K99R00 Pathway to Independence grant to study the role of striatal cholinergic interneurons in chronic alcohol-induced cognitive deficits. The overarching hypothesis is that chronic alcohol exposure will result in hypofunctional striatal cholinergic circuits that contribute to cognitive flexibility deficits observed in alcohol use disorder. Thus, we expect that chemogenetic activation of striatal cholinergic interneurons will rescue striatal cholinergic function and ameliorate cognitive flexibility deficits. Other studies in the lab will explore the role of striosome and matrix compartments of the striatum in reinforcement and motivated behaviors. We will also follow up on previous work examining the beneficial effects of a ketone ester-enriched diet on motor and nonmotor Parkinsonian symptoms. If interested, please feel free to read specific project descriptions on the lab website and reach out with any questions.