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Office: I2.03

School Phone: +351 253 604 835

Email: id5309@alunos.uminho.pt




Keywords: prenatal stress dopamine mesolimbic system glucocorticoids reward motivation


I am focusing on the reward circuitry and the role of key players in mediating reward perception and motivation. In particular, using a model of prenatal exposure to in utero glucocorticoids (iuGC) that presents motivational deficits associated with significant changes in the mesolimbic circuit. This circuit receives inputs fromthe laterodorsal tegmentum (LDT) that was shown to control the dopaminergic tone of the mesolimbic pathway. By studying the impact of iuGC exposure in the cholinergic system and its involvement in the observed dopaminergic de-regulation in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), we can understand the underlying vulnerabilities of these circuits to stress and resulting motivational deficits. 

Furthermore, using optogenetics, I am studying the impact of selective activation of LDT projecting neurons and its possible implications in motivation and reward processing. I’m complementing these studies with electrophysiological characterization of, not only LDT neuronal populations, but also its anatomical targets, such as ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the NAc.

Selected Publications

Borges S, Coimbra B, Soares-Cunha C, Pego JM, Sousa N, Rodrigues AJ. Dopaminergic modulation of affective and social deficits induced by prenatal glucocorticoid exposure. Neuropsychopharmacology, 38(10):2068-79

De Carvalho MM, Campos FA, Coimbra BG, Pêgo JM, Rodrigues CM, Lima RA, Rodrigues AJ, Sousa NJ, Salgado AJ. Behavioral characterization of the 6-hydroxidopamine model of Parkinson's disease and pharmacological rescuing of non-motor deficits. Mol Neurodegener, Apr 26;8(1):14 (2013).

Borges S, Coimbra B, Soares-Cunha C, Ventura-Silva P, Pinto L, Carvalho MM, Pego JM, Rodrigues AJ, Sousa N. Glucocorticoid programming of the mesopontine cholinergic system. Front Neuroendocr Sci, 4:190 (2013).

Soares-Cunha C, Coimbra B, Borges S, Carvalho MM, Rodrigues AJ*, Sousa N*. The motivational drive to natural rewards is modulated by prenatal glucocorticoid exposure. Transl Psychiatry, 4(6):e397 (2014).

Soares-Cunha C, Coimbra B, Pereira A, Pinto L, Costa P, Sousa N, Rodrigues AJ. Activation of D2 dopamine receptor-expressing neurons in the nucleus accumbens increases motivation. Nat Commun, 7:11829 (2016)

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