Ileana Morales

Biopsychology Graduate Student

Research Interests:

How does the brain allow us to like the foods that we liked and dislike others? What areas of the brain work together to create pleasure and incentive motivation? How do these brain systems become dysregulated during drug addiction and eating disorders to generate intense and irrational motivation to consume these rewards at the expense of other available alternatives? My current research focuses on these questions. I use optogenetic techniques to stimulate or inhibit populations of neurons in various corticolimbic sites and determine their effects on ‘liking’ and ‘wanting’.

Current Projects

  • How does optogenetic stimulation of cortical areas in orbitofrontal cortex, insular, and anterior cingulate cortex modulate ‘liking’ and ‘wanting’ of food rewards?
  • How does neuronal inhibition of the ventral pallidum generate intense ‘disgust’ and aversive motivation so that even normally ‘liked’ foods such as sucrose become ‘disliked’?
  • What are the contributions of GABAergic cells in the ventral pallidum to ‘liking’ and ‘wanting’?
  • How does stimulation of the central amygdala bias and enhance motivation for particular drugs of abuse such as cocaine and remifentanil?