Mark Thomas, PhD

Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Mark Thomas

Contact Info

tmhomas@umn.edu

Office Phone 612-624-4963

Office Address:
4-114 WMBB

Lab Address:
4-220 WMBB

Summary

Mark Thomas is a professor of neuroscience and scientific director of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction, a new research program funded by the state legislature to fuel cross-disciplinary collaborations and discover new treatment options. His research examines how addictive drugs alter the brain and how these changes can lead to compulsive drug use. His lab is now focusing on ways to disrupt addiction relapse.

Research

Research Summary/Interests

Neurobiology of drug-induced plasticity and addiction

A fundamental question in neuroscience is how the structure and function of the brain is modified by experience. One compelling model of experience-dependent plasticity is behavioral sensitization—a long-lasting increase in the locomotor stimulatory effects of drugs of abuse following repeated exposure. Behavioral sensitization is also a prominent model for the intensification of drug craving that occurs in human addicts. My laboratory seeks to identify the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie this form of plasticity, as well as the genetic factors that may predispose an individual to sensitization. We are currently studying two cellular correlates of drug-induced plasticity, long-term depression at glutamatergic synapses in the nucleus accumbens—a key site of action of drugs of abuse in the brain—and the increases in the length of dendrites and the density of dendritic spines that also occur in accumbens neurons. We are using several complementary approaches to determine the relationship that each of these correlates has with behavioral sensitization and with each other: behavioral studies to determine the consequences of drug exposure, the use of transgenic and knockout mice, analysis of dendritic morphology via several staining methods and whole-cell recordings in brain slices to investigate synaptic function. These studies will provide insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of an important form of experience-dependent plasticity that may hold some of the clues to drug addiction.

Publications

Sweis, BM, Redish, D & Thomas, MJ 2018, 'Prolonged abstinence from cocaine or morphine disrupts separable valuations during decision conflict' Nature Communications, vol. 9, no. 1, 2521. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04967-2

Sweis, BM, Thomas, MJ & Redish, D 2018, 'Beyond simple tests of value: Measuring addiction as a heterogeneous disease of computation-specific valuation processes' Learning and Memory, vol. 25, no. 9, pp. 501-512. https://doi.org/10.1101/lm.047795.118

Ebner, SR, Larson, EB, Hearing, MC, Ingebretson, AE & Thomas, MJ 2018, 'Extinction and Reinstatement of Cocaine-seeking in Self-administering Mice is Associated with Bidirectional AMPAR-mediated Plasticity in the Nucleus Accumbens Shell' Neuroscience, vol. 384, pp. 340-349. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.05.043

Sweis, BM, Abram, SV, Schmidt, BJ, Seeland, KD, MacDonald, A, Thomas, MJ & Redish, D 2018, 'Sensitivity to “sunk costs” in mice, rats, and humans' Science, vol. 361, no. 6398, pp. 178-181. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar8644

Sweis, BM, Larson, EB, Redish, D & Thomas, MJ 2018, 'Altering gain of the infralimbic-to-accumbens shell circuit alters economically dissociable decision-making algorithms' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 115, no. 27, pp. E6347-E6355. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1803084115

Sweis, BM, Thomas, MJ & Redish, D 2018, 'Mice learn to avoid regret' PLoS Biology, vol. 16, no. 6, e2005853. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2005853

Tonn Eisinger, KR, Larson, EB, Boulware, MI, Thomas, MJ & Mermelstein, PG 2018, 'Membrane estrogen receptor signaling impacts the reward circuitry of the female brain to influence motivated behaviors' Steroids, vol. 133, pp. 53-59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.steroids.2017.11.013

Ingebretson, AE, Hearing, MC, Huffington, ED & Thomas, MJ 2018, 'Endogenous dopamine and endocannabinoid signaling mediate cocaine-induced reversal of AMPAR synaptic potentiation in the nucleus accumbens shell' Neuropharmacology, vol. 131, pp. 154-165. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.12.011

Hearing, M, Graziane, N, Dong, Y & Thomas, MJ 2018, 'Opioid and Psychostimulant Plasticity: Targeting Overlap in Nucleus Accumbens Glutamate Signaling' Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 276-294. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tips.2017.12.004

Hearing, MC, Jedynak, J, Ebner, SR, Ingebretson, A, Asp, AJ, Fischer, RA, Schmidt, C, Larson, EB & Thomas, MJ 2016, 'Reversal of morphine-induced cell-type-specific synaptic plasticity in the nucleus accumbens shell blocks reinstatement' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 113, no. 3, pp. 757-762. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1519248113