Augier Lab

About our research

Our research focuses on the molecular mechanisms driving individual variability and sex differences to substance use disorder. In particular, we are investigating the role of GABAergic transmission in several brain regions (including the Central Amygdala), pathological choice of drug over healthy rewards.

One important aspect that has so far been largely neglected in preclinical addiction research is the availability of alternative non-drug rewards. In fact, addiction leads to a progressively increased choice of drugs over healthy rewards such as food and social interactions. Social interactions for instance constitute one of the most important sources of reward in most mammals. A strong link is established between poor social integration and drug use. Despite this, social factors and alternatives to drugs have, with few exceptions, not been incorporated into neurobiological studies of addiction. Incorporating these factors will be critical for discovering new treatments.

To address this question, we recently used a reliably translational model in which only about 15% of outbred rats (a rate similar to human alcohol addiction) choose alcohol over an alternative high-value reward and found that behavior was caused by dysregulated GABA transmission in central amygdala (CeA). These findings may help advance novel addiction pharmacotherapies, but key questions remain: for example, does this mechanism generalize to other drugs of abuse, such as opioids and psychostimulants?