Dr Cecilia Flores

McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Our research program is directed at understanding changes in dopamine neurons and their connections by genetic abnormalities and by exposure to drugs or stressors at different times in life.

1) Dopamine Development and Resilience: Mesocorticolimbic dopamine circuitry has extensive influence over the onset of psychopathologies such as schizophrenia, depression, and addiction. We study variations in the netrin-1 guidance cue system at specific developmental stages to determine how they alter the establishment of dopamine circuitry. We are interested in how these developmental events affect dopamine function and behavior in adulthood, and their role mediating resilience to psychopathology in both animal models and in translational human studies.

2) Drugs and Adolescent Brain Development:  One of our goals is to understand how initiation of drug use in adolescence, in comparison to adulthood, increases vulnerability to developing addiction.
We identified the first known mediator of adolescent prefrontal cortex development, the netrin-1 receptor, DCC, and are currently studying how DCC-dependent mechanisms act as a target for gene-environment interactions in the adolescent cortex.