You are herePaul Meyer, Ph.D.
Paul Meyer, Ph.D.
B.S. (Psychology as a Natural Science) 1996, University of Michigan
Ph.D. (Behavioral Neuroscience) 2006, Oregon Health and Science University
Second Year Project: The effect of MK-801 on ethanol sensitization. (Mentor: Tamara J. Phillips, Ph.D.)
Dissertation: Neurochemical substrates of ethanol's locomotor effects. (Mentor: Tamara J. Phillips, Ph.D.)
Assistant Professor of Psychology, SUNY at Buffalo
Background & Interests
I've always found it fascinating that small molecules such as alcohol and morphine can come to control complex behaviors like drinking and elicit addictive behaviors. I worked as a technician in Harriet de Wit's human behavioral psychopharmacology laboratory at the University of Chicago; where I learned that an individual's response to an abused drug depends a number of factors, ranging from social to biological. I became very interested in the biological and genetic aspects of addiction, but found that many of my questions could not be answered using human subjects. Through my graduate studies, I became interested in the idea that abused drugs act through some of the same neurochemical pathways, especially those involving the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate. My dissertation work with Tamara Phillips involved testing genetically distinct populations of mice for their responses to alcohol, and whether these responses were related to alcohol's effects on glutamatergic and dopaminergic systems. The great thing about the highly interactive nature of the Department of Neuroscience is that its trainees are kept up to date with research in their own and related fields. For example, I learned through courses and seminars that dopamine and glutamate systems play important roles in reinforcement learning, and that drugs of abuse may cause addictive disorders by hijacking these systems, suggesting that drug addiction could be thought of, in some instances, as a dopamine-dependent associative learning disorder. This, to me, is a intriguing idea, and I've dedicated my career to studying the role of dopamine in responding to drug- and motivationally-relevant stimuli. The techniques I've used have been as simple as measuring locomotion in mice and as complex as using patch clamp electrophysiology in brain slices. Currently, I'm studying the how dopamine neurons encode stimuli that predict food and drug reward as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan. In the future, I plan to continue to record from dopamine neurons in animals performing various learning tasks, either as an independent researcher or as a part of a laboratory with similar interests.