Medical Research

University of California, Santa Barbara

Tod Kippin, Kevin Plaxco, Tom Soh
Santa Barbara, CA
$1,000,000
June 2014

The complexity of the interplay of dynamic neuronal signals in the brain has implications for human behavior.  A UCSB team of engineers and a neuroscientist proposes to develop analytical tools that could continuously track multiple small molecules including psychoactive drugs and neurotransmitters in the brain of awake and ambulatory rodents.  The technology is based on the team’s recently developed electrochemical sensors, composed of small DNA molecules called aptamers.  These can be engineered to bind tightly to specific target molecules thereby triggering an electrical signal.  These sensors, supported on micron-scale gold electrodes inserted into a rodent brain, will, for the first time, establish the time-synchronized relationships between drug neuropharmacokinetics as well as the neurotransmitter dynamics and behaviors that they induce.  The success of this project could help to answer some of the most fundamental questions in addiction biology.  It will also validate a powerful new approach for studying the dynamic molecular changes that form the biological bases of behavior.

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