The primary research focus of the Waterhouse laboratory is to understand the role of the central monoaminergic systems in brain function and behavior. More specifically, the lab is concerned with the anatomy and physiology of the brainstem noradrenergic and serotonergic efferent systems as they relate to executive function and the sensory-processing capabilities of an organism.
These studies employ a broad spectrum of neuroanatomical, behavioral, and electrophysiological techniques including microiontophoresis, single unit extracellular recording from anesthetized animals, simultaneous spike train recordings from multiple arrays of single neurons in awake animals, computer-based acquisition and analysis of spike train data, behavioral paradigms for evaluating sustained and flexible attention, mapping of monoamine projections from source nuclei using retrograde tracer substances, and molecular phenotyping of laser captured neurons using rtPCR.
The underlying theme of this work is that synaptically released norepinephrine and serotonin operate as complementary neuromodulatory substances, which regulate the responsiveness of sensory neurons and sensory circuits to synaptic inputs. As such, these systems may play a significant role in the ability of the organism to orient and attend to novel or salient stimuli from the sensory surround. More recent work focuses on regulation of prefrontal cortical circuit physiology and executive function.
Clinical implications of this work which have led to related experimental studies are that these monoaminergic systems may underlie some of the behavioral actions of psychostimulant drugs such as cocaine and methylphenidate (Ritalin®) and the cognitive deficits that accompany normal aging, anxiety/PTSD, HIV neuroAIDS, and attention disorders such as ADHD.
Selected Grants Funded
"Phenotypic Diversity of Neurons Modulating Executive Function in ADHD"
Principal investigator: Wen-Jun Gao, PhD (Neurobiology & Anatomy)
Co-investigator: Barry Waterhouse, PhD
Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) Grant (2013)