The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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David Moorman

Assistant Professor

Research in our laboratory is focused on understanding how neuronal function contributes to behavior and what goes wrong with neural systems in psychiatric and neurological disease. We are particularly interested in characterizing the functions of networks of phenotypically-characterized neurons in behaving animals performing tasks related to motivation and cognition as well as in models of disease such as addiction, obesity, ADHD, and depression. We use techniques such as electrophysiology, pharmacology, optogenetics, and cellular imaging to associate neuronal network function with specific aspects of behavior and manipulate it in real time. Our overarching goal is to precisely define systems associated with psychiatric and neurological disorders so as to provide specific targets for treatment design.

Current Research
Our current research focuses on the function of a number of interconnected neural systems in normal and disease-model behaviors. We are currently investigating how signaling in the orbitofrontal cortex relates to processing of both natural and drug (e.g., alcohol) rewards in both normal animals and in animal models of addiction. We are also currently investigating how the medial prefrontal cortex regulates learning about both positive (e.g., rewards) and negative (e.g., punishments) outcomes. These studies inform our understanding of diseases such as addiction, depression, and fear/stress/anxiety (such as in PTSD). Similar work is being performed in order to understand the contributions of additional systems such as the midbrain dopamine and hypothalamic hypocretin/orexin and melanin-concentrating hormone systems to such behaviors. All of our work attempts to integrate behavioral, physiological, and computational techniques to provide an overarching characterization of the fundamental neural components of behavior.

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Academic Background

  • BA Vassar College, 1997
  • PhD University of Pittsburgh, 2005
  • Postdoctoral Training: University of Pennsylvania, 2005-2006
  • Postdoctoral Training: Medical University of South Carolina, 2006-2009
Moorman D.E., Aston-Jones G. Orexin-1 receptor antagonism decreases ethanol consumption and preference selectively in high-ethanol-preferring Sprague Dawley rats. Alcohol. 2009. 43(5):379-86.
Moorman D.E., Aston-Jones G. Orexin/hypocretin modulates response of ventral tegmental dopamine neurons to prefrontal activation: diurnal influences. J. Neurosci. 2010. 30(46):15585–15599.
Huff M.L., Miller R.L., Deisseroth K., Moorman D.E., LaLumiere R.T. Post-training optogenetic stimulation of the basolateral amygdala enhances retention of inhibitory avoidance learning in rats. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 2013. 110(9): 3597-3602.
Waters R.P., Moorman D.E., Young A.B., Feltenstein M.W., See R.E. Assessment of a proposed ‘3-criteria’ cocaine addiction model for use in reinstatement studies with rats. Psychopharmacology. 2014. 231(16): 3197-3205.
Moorman D.E. and Aston-Jones G. Orbitofrontal cortical neurons encode expectation-driven initiation of reward-seeking J. Neurosci. 2014. 34(31): 3216-13.
Mahler S.V., Moorman, D.E., Smith, R.J, James, M.H, Aston-Jones, G. Motivational activation: a unifying hypothesis of orexin/hypocretin function. Nat. Neurosci. 2014. 17(10): 1298-303.
Moorman D.E., James M.H., McGlinchey E.M., and Aston-Jones G. Differential roles of medial prefrontal subregions in the regulation of drug seeking. 2014. In press at Brain Res.
Contact Info

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Neuroscience and Behavior Graduate Program
528 Tobin Hall
135 Hicks Way
Amherst MA 01003

(413) 545-0663