Susan Ferguson, PhD

Personal Statement

The overall goal of my research program is to use a multi-level approach, combining molecular biology, anatomy, genetics and behavioral neuroscience, to understand the role of cortico-basal ganglia circuitry in the development of behaviors that are associated with drug reward and addiction, as well as in the processes that underlie decision-making, motivation and impulsivity.

To accomplish these goals, my laboratory employs a novel chemical-genetic approach that uses viral vectors to express artificial, engineered G-protein coupled receptors (known as DREADD receptors) in discrete neuronal cell populations in rodents. Activation of DREADD receptors by the otherwise inert synthetic ligand clozapine-N-Oxide will lead to transient alterations in neuronal activity (either increasing or decreasing cell function depending on which G-protein coupled DREADD receptor is expressed) of the targeted cell populations. This neuronal modulation can be paired with specific phases of the behaviors that we study, including psychostimulant-induced behavioral sensitization, drug self-administration and operant learning tasks, in order to parse out the neural circuitry that contributes to behaviors associated with addiction and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

Department Affiliations

Scholarly Expertise

Recent Publications

One Is Not Enough: Understanding and Modeling Polysubstance Use.
Front Neurosci 14(): 569
Crummy EA, O'Neal TJ, Baskin BM, Ferguson SM

Chemogenetic modulation of accumbens direct or indirect pathways bidirectionally alters reinstatement of heroin-seeking in high- but not low-risk rats.
(2020 Jul)
Neuropsychopharmacology 45(8): 1251-1262
O'Neal TJ, Nooney MN, Thien K, Ferguson SM

The paraventricular thalamus is a critical mediator of top-down control of cue-motivated behavior in rats.
(2019 Sep 10)
Elife 8():
Campus P, Covelo IR, Kim Y, Parsegian A, Kuhn BN, Lopez SA, Neumaier JF, Ferguson SM, Solberg Woods LC, Sarter M, Flagel SB

The impact of cocaine and heroin drug history on motivation and cue sensitivity in a rat model of polydrug abuse.
(2020 Jan)
Psychopharmacology (Berl) 237(1): 55-68
Crummy EA, Donckels EA, Baskin BM, Bentzley BS, Ferguson SM

Convergent neural connectivity in motor impulsivity and high-fat food binge-like eating in male Sprague-Dawley rats.
(2019 Sep)
Neuropsychopharmacology 44(10): 1752-1761
Anastasio NC, Stutz SJ, Price AE, Davis-Reyes BD, Sholler DJ, Ferguson SM, Neumaier JF, Moeller FG, Hommel JD, Cunningham KA

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