My research investigates neural circuits for behavior, including social behavior, addiction and mood. In particular, we are interested in how gonadal steroid hormones act in the brain, both during development and in the adult, to effect sex differences and modify behavior.
One line of research investigates the neurobiology of anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) abuse. AAS are drugs of abuse, but the potential for dependence and addiction remains unclear. Studies from our laboratory have shown that male and female rodents will voluntarily self-administer testosterone and other AAS. This suggests that AAS are potentially addictive, independent of their effects on muscle mass or athletic performance. We are currently exploring how AAS alter decision-making and response to risk.
We are also interested in the behavioral endocrinology of cooperation: how hormones modulate cooperative behavior. We have developed operant models to test cooperation in rats working for food reward. Our studies investigate the effects of oxytocin and prolactin to promote cooperation, and the effects of AAS to inhibit cooperative behavior.