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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Psychiatry Grand Rounds Speaker


     Gary S. Aston-Jones, PhD


Gary Aston-Jones is a Professor and the Murray Chair of Excellence in Neuroscience in the Department of Neurosciences at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), where he is also Co-Director of the Neuroscience Institute and developing a Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Previously, he was a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Director of the Laboratory for Neuromodulation and Behavior at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Director of the Neuroscience of Addiction Research Center at Penn.

Dr. Aston-Jones earned his B.A. in 1973 from the University of Virginia and his Ph.D. in neurobiology in 1981 from the California Institute of Technology. He served as a Postdoctoral Fellow from 1980 to 1982 at the Salk Institute. His recent honors include a COEE endowed chair at MUSC, serving as the Chairman of the Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior CSR Review Group, and receiving a National Institute on Drug Abuse Merit Award.

Dr. Aston-Jones’s primary research interests are in the brain neuromodulatory systems, and their roles in cognitive performance, sleep and waking, drug abuse, and affective disorders. He uses a multidisciplinary approach, primarily involving single unit neurophysiology, neuroanatomy and behavioral neuropharmacology. He and his colleagues have recently described a role for the brain noradrenergic locus coeruleus system in decision processes, in the circadian regulation of sleep and waking, and in depression. Other of his lab's recent work also reveals a key role for the brain orexin/hypocretin system in reward processing, and also indicates an important role of this and related systems in the drug seeking that accompanies protracted opiate withdrawal.

       At the completion of this session, the participant should be able to:
       1) List times at which norepinephrine is released during different behaviors
2) Describe how activity of norepinephrine brain neurons changes during sleep and waking
3) Discuss how brain norepinephrine neurons may contribute to mental disorders such as ADHD
    and autism.

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