Primary Area: Behavioral Neuroscience
Home Department: Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
Address: MRL 2760
Phone: (310) 206-7884
Research and Teaching Interests:
Dr. Evans is director of a NIH-funded center, The Center for Opioid Receptors and Drugs of Abuse or CSORDA with the broad aim of understanding the action of opioid drugs such as morphine and heroin at the molecular, cellular and behavioral levels. The primary research interests of Dr. Evans are aligned closely with the goals of CSORDA. Recent interests include the modulation of striatal function following self-administration of opioid drugs. We are especially interested in the cellular, behavioral and transcriptome modulation following self-administration of specific opioid drugs such as morphine, remifentanyl and oxycodone and in animals with mu opioid receptors genetically depleted from selective striatal cell types such as D1 or D2 medium spiny neurons. We are also interested in the modulation of reward circuitry by microglia activation as a result of neuropathic pain or following chronic morphine. Activation of microglia in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which houses dopamine cell bodies involved in reward, dysregulates GABAergic interneuron activity, which in turn results in disrupts cocaine reward and cocaine-induced increases in extracellular dopamine in the striatum. We are assessing whether this dysregulation of reward circuitry contributes to the anhedonic states associated with chronic pain and withdrawal from chronic opioids. Current research interests also include the evolution of the opioid system and how the receptors and ligands became matched to regulate mood, reward and nonciception. For these studies we have been analyzing the opioid systems in primitive chordates such as the Pacific Hagfish. My teaching interests are more broadly in the area of addictions and in combining didactic teaching with outreach programs to local high schools.