Steve Reilly

    Email Address:
    College: Liberal Arts and Sciences Department: Psychology
    Title: Professor
    Office: 1042B BSB M/C 285 Phone: 4132625

    Research Interest:
    Our research concerns the neural mechanisms of learning, memory and motivation. More specifically, we are interested in determining the roles of central gustatory nuclei in taste-guided and taste-motivated phenomena with an emphasis on toxin- and drug-induced conditioned taste aversion/avoidance as well as Pavlovian and instrumental incentive learning. Our CTA work suggests that forebrain nuclei are responsible for the detection of taste novelty and provide feedback to a brainstem structure, the parabrachial nucleus, which governs the integration of gustatory and aversive viscerosensory information. With clinical relevance aforethought, we are particularly interested in determining whether CTA acquisition and consolidation are dependent upon protein synthesis and/or glutamate receptors in the parabrachial nucleus. We believe that understanding of the neural substrates of CTA learning will not only yield important insights into the neural integration of gustatory and visceral functions but may provide a foundation for the development of treatments and interventions that might ameliorate the unwanted, and oftentimes debilitating, nutritional side effects of invasive medical treatments such as chemo- and radiation therapy.

    While most drug addiction research focuses on the central reward pathway, the central gustatory system has attracted little attention. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that drug addiction likely involves much of the neural circuitry that originally evolved to mediate ingestion of natural rewards. We believe that studies of the behavioral functions of central gustatory nuclei will benefit our understanding of how the brain processes reward-related information and integrates memory and motivation. Thus, our research examining the neural mechanisms of Pavlovian and instrumental incentive learning, using drug-induced avoidance of taste stimuli and post-conditioning manipulations of perceived reward value as basic models, may have wide reaching implications concerning the neural integration of different forms of reward and their resultant impact on motivated behavior. This work is expected to benefit understanding relevant to a number of disorders including drug addiction and obesity.

    Minimum time commitment in hours per week:

    Qualifications of a Student:
    Junior/Senior standing; have taken Physiological Psychology or comparable course; be interested in neuroscience, learning, and animal behavior. Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Students will be working with immunohistology, and potentially running behavioral experiments involving rats.

    Brief Summary of what is expected from the student:
    Students are expected to commit a minimum of 2 semesters in the lab.

    Depending on your experience, you will trained on the various experimental procedures used in the lab, including behavioral testing and histological analyses. Our behavioral experiments are typically conducted in the mornings, 7 days per week.

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