University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus

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Mentor: Dr. Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar; University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus

Project 1: The interplay between oxytocin and CB1 receptors in the endocrine, mesolimbic, and limbic systems of rats followed by the effects of chronic oxytocin intranasal administration in exercise and anxiety-like behavior 

Description of project: Oxytocin (OT) is a neuropeptide associated with social behaviors, stress responses and drug-addiction. A previous study showed a cross-talk between the CB1R of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and OTR within the mesolimbic system to modulated anxiety behaviors. Several studies support that intranasal oxytocin administration and voluntary wheel running are treatments endowed with anxiolytic properties. Other studies demonstrated that ECS is crucial for voluntary wheel running performance. For this reason and because the presence of OT and endocannabinoids in the limbic, mesolimbic and endocrine systems has been associated with the anxiolytic response, the purpose of my project is to: (i) to examine whether OT intranasal pretreatment enhances voluntary wheel running behavior and potentiates the anxiolytic properties of exercise in adults male Sprague-Dawley rats, and (ii) to characterize the OTR and CB1R expression within the limbic, mesolimbic and endocrine regions as consequence of this behaviors. 

Project 2: The role of CB2 and voluntary wheel running in depression-like behavior 

Description of project: The endocannabinoid system (eCB) has been implicated in the pathophysiology of depression. Studies have shown that CB2 receptor (CB2R) plays a role in depression-like behavior by modulating the serotonergic system. Other studies revealed that aerobic exercise is also involved in decreasing depression-like behavior by upregulating 5-HT release. The purpose of this project was to observe if the manipulation of the CB2R would enhance the therapeutic effect of aerobic exercise in depression. For this, we used the forced swim test (FST) paradigm as a depression model in male Sprague Dawley rats.

Project 3: Effect of fatty-acids amylase inhibitor (FAAH) on TRPV1R’s and CB1R’s regulatinganxiety and depression behaviors within the mesolimbic system

Description of project: The scientific contribution of this project is providing evidence of a functional crosstalk between TRPV1 and CB1R’s in the regulation of anxiety and depression-like behaviors triggered by stress within specific brain regions related to emotional processes using rats as animal model.

Project 4: Effects of chronic and acute inhibition of cannabinoid CB2 receptor on anxiety levels and oxytocin activity 

Description of project: Our work has been focused on the crosstalk between the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and oxytocinergic system in relation to anxiety-like behaviors. We are particularly interested in elucidating the role of the cannabinoid type 2 (CB2) receptor in regulating oxytocin activity and anxiety-like behavios. Using behavioral methods for rodents paired with different molecular techniques like western blots we are studying how these systems interact in Sprague Dawley rats.