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Jorge Juárez González, Ph.D.

Eliana Barrios, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Pharmacology and Behavior Laboratory

Lead researcher: Dr. Jorge Juárez González
e-mail: jjuarez@cencar.udg.mx

Principal Area of Research: The study of the neurophysiological mechanisms that underlie a variety of behavioral disorders, specifically those related to addictions.

Lead Researcher: Dr. Jorge Juárez González
Associate Professor: Dr. Eliana Barrios De Tomasi

Description of the Research Areas

There are extensive studies devoted to analyzing the effects of drugs on different organs and systems, and on behavior; however, very few of those evaluate how an organism’s functional state may modulate the effects of drugs, in relation to toxicity and at the perceptual, metabolic and behavioral levels. Though the phenomenon of addiction is a uniquely human problem, the use of animal models is indispensable for studying the biological mechanisms that underlie it. In our laboratory we are developing different research currents related to this area.

Social and emotional factors seem to play an important role in exacerbating addiction to certain drugs. These may include stress or activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system, which appear to facilitate the acquisition of such drugs as cocaine, amphetamines, and alcohol. From this basis, one direction of our research is the study of the effects of stress and corticosterone on consumption patterns, and such phenomena as sensitization or tolerance to diverse drugs, including some used in clinical medicine, such as methylphenidate and atomoxetine, which are utilized to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Also, using pharmacological approaches we study the participation of diverse systems that involve neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin in impulsive behaviors and alterations of motor activity and attention in animal models.

Another line of research we pursue in our laboratory concerns alimentary disorders that involve a hedonistic component, with respect to which some authors have speculated on the similarity between certain elements that appear and aspects of addictive behaviors. In this regard, the participation of hormones and drugs that affect the mesolimbic-cortical system, and strategies of the availability of different macro-nutrients are objectives of our inquiries.

The possible effects of sexual hormones and the participation of different neurotransmission systems on alcohol consumption also form part of our scientific interests. To this end, in addition to the use of animal models, we complement our research with studies in humans that have a therapeutic focus. These projects are based on evidence that sexual hormones are not simply affected by alcohol, but may also have the ability to modulate the action of that drug. It is important to note that the opioid system seems to play a crucial role in the development and establishment of alcohol addiction, a problem we have examined using opioid antagonists and models of cytotoxicity in neurons that secrete beta-endorphins.

Finally, we are also interested in the study of sexual behavior, though more in its hedonistic than in its reproductive component. One current problem consists in encountering an adequate measure for the degree of sexual motivation and the capacity to separate this aspect from the consummatory component; i.e., copulation. Working from this perspective has allowed us to design a method that discriminates these two components of sexual behavior so that, through pharmacological treatments, we are now exploring their differential affectation.

At present we are also complementing some of our projects with studies of genetic expression using the micro-arrangement technique in order to understand how this component is related to the action of different drugs and the resulting behavioral changes.

Clearly, the information produced by these studies may have great benefits at both the clinical level and in terms of understanding the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie addictions and other behaviors that, while not necessarily addictive, include an important motivational component.