Anushree Karkhanis, PhD
Anushree Karkhanis, PhD
Dept. of Physiology & Pharmacology
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Medical Center Boulevard
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157-1083
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2011 – 2016, Wake Forest School of Medicine
PhD, 2010, Rutgers University, Neuroscience
BA, 2006, Rutgers University, Psychology
Early-life stress, drug abuse vulnerability, kappa opioid receptors, dopamine, norepinephrine, alcohol, cocaine, voltammetry, microdialysis, optogenetics, self-administration
Brief Summary of Research
My research program is primarily guided by two questions:
1. How does the neurobiology in individuals resilient to maladaptive behaviors (e.g.; anxiety, depression, addiction, etc.) differ from the neurobiology in those vulnerable to developing maladaptive behaviors?
2. How does extended exposure to illicit drugs, which eventually leads to dependence on these drugs, alter neural circuits?
To answer these questions, my research predominantly uses two types of animal models: animals with increased vulnerability to develop addictive behaviors and animals that are dependent on drugs. The overarching goal of my research is to elucidate the neural substrates underlying neuropsychiatric disorders and comorbid alcohol/drug abuse. Exposure to chronic stress during adolescence (early-life stress) often results in increased anxiety and depression, and is highly correlated with augmented risk of developing alcoholism in adulthood. Moreover, individuals exposed to early-life stress exhibit heightened responsivity to psychoactive and withdrawal effects of psychostimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine. Ongoing projects are geared towards investigating chronic early-life stress-induced neurobiological predispositions that increase the risk of developing maladaptive behavioral patterns such as alcohol use disorder and substance abuse. Individuals exposed to alcohol and/or other illicit drugs for an extended period of time also suffer from increased anxiety and depression. Both, vulnerability and dependence animal models used in my research engender similar maladaptive behavioral patterns, such as, increases in anxiety-like behaviors and escalations in drug self-administrations. Neurobiological changes have been reported in the dopamine, glutamate and dynorphin/kappa opioid receptor systems in various brain regions. I am particularly interested in studying the interactions of these three systems in mesolimbic areas. In order to enhance cell and circuit specificity, my research program uses chemogenetics and optogenetics in conjunction with microdialysis, fast scan cyclic voltammetry, whole-cell patch clamp eletrophysiology, operant behavior for drug self-administration, and other behavioral assays. Moreover, I use optogenetics, chemogenetics and receptor pharmacology to reverse maladaptive behavioral patterns by targeting specific receptors and neural circuits. The ultimate goal of my research program is to help develop evidence-based therapeutic interventions for addictive behaviors.