Colloquia Series 2019-20

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Speaker: Dr. Yarimar Carrasquillo, Neuroscience, National Institute of Health

Title: Neural Mechanisms of Pain Modulation in the Amygdala


The perception of pain and the responses to painful stimuli can be enhanced or attenuated by many factors including expectation, experience and the emotional state of an individual. The ability of organisms to turn pain up and down under different conditions has been linked to changes in brain function, with dysfunction of this pain modulatory system proposed to underlie persistent pathological pain states. Surprisingly, little is known about the brain mechanisms leading to persistent pathological pain states. The Carrasquillo Lab at NCCIH integrates cutting-edge multidisciplinary approaches in mouse models of acute and chronic pain to study the mechanisms underlying the brain’s ability to enhance and decrease pain. Our studies have demonstrated that cell-type-specific bidirectional changes in excitability in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) function as a pain rheostat, attenuating or exacerbating pain-related behavioral outputs in mice. During my talk, I will present the results from these studies as well as our ongoing efforts to dissect out the cell-type-specific neural circuits and cellular mechanisms underlying bidirectional control of pain in the brain.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Speaker: Dr. Michelle Shiota, Dept of Psychology, Arizona State University

Title: Beyond Happiness: The Case for Research on Discrete Positive Emotions


Psychology offers a long tradition of research on global positive emotion constructs such as "happiness," "joy," and "positive affect." This work is increasingly invoked as the basis for positive emotion-based interventions in applied domains such as health, education, and economic decision-making. Within basic affective science, a strong tension has emerged between the proposal that specific "discrete" emotion constructs do not exist, and growing evidence that different points in positive emotion space differ in terms of facial expression, peripheral psychophysiology, and cognitive processing. The case is made that a discrete emotion theoretical framework is useful for exploring variability in positive emotion space, and that such work is crucial for applying basic science on positive affect in interventions.

Thursday, September 26 , 2019

Speaker: Dr. Jibran Khokhar​, Dept. of Biomedical Sciences, Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph

Title: Substance Use Disorder in Patients with Schizophrenia: Cracking the Chicken-or-Egg Problem


Although substance use disorders (SUDs) occur commonly in patients with schizophrenia and significantly worsen their clinical course, the neurobiological basis of SUDs in schizophrenia is not well understood. Therefore, there is a critical need to understand the mechanisms underlying SUDs in schizophrenia in order to identify potential targets for therapeutic intervention. Since drug use usually begins in adolescence, it is also important to understand the long-term effects of adolescent drug exposure on schizophrenia- and reward- related behaviors and circuitry. This talk will combine pharmacological, behavioral, electrophysiologic (local field potential recordings) and pre-clinical magnetic resonance imaging (resting-state functional connectivity and magnetic resonance spectroscopy) approaches to study these topics with an eye toward developing better treatment approaches.

More information:
Mahnoor Mukhtar (