Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Biology & Biomedical Sciences (Neurosciences)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Parsing the complexity of the mammalian brain has challenged neuroscientists for thousands of years. In the early 21st century, advances in materials science and neuroscience have enabled unprecedented control of neural circuitry. In particular, cell-type selective manipulations, such as those with optogenetics and chemogenetics, routinely provide answers to previously intractable neurobiological questions in the intact, behaving animal.

In this two-part dissertation, I first introduce new minimally invasive, wireless technology to perturb neural activity in the ventral tegmental area dopaminergic system of freely moving animals. I report a series of novel devices for studying and perturbing intact neural systems through optogenetics, microfluidic pharmacology, and electrophysiology. Unlike optogenetic approaches that rely on rigid, glass fiber optics coupled to external light sources, these novel devices utilize flexible substrates to carry microscale, inorganic light emitting diodes (μ-ILEDs), multimodal sensors, and/or microfluidic channels into the brain. Each class of device can be wirelessly controlled, enabling studies in freely behaving mice and achieving previously untenable control of catecholamine neural circuitry.

In the second part of this dissertation, I apply existing cell-type selective approaches to dissect the role of the locus coeruleus noradrenergic (LC-NE) system in anxiety-like and aversive behaviors. The LC-NE system is one of the first systems engaged following a stressful event. While LC-NE neurons are known to be activated by many different stressors, the underlying neural circuitry and the role of this activity in generating stress-induced anxiety has not been elucidated until now. I demonstrate that increased tonic activity of LC-NE neurons is both necessary and sufficient for stress-induced anxiety; a behavior which is driven by LC projections to the basolateral amygdala. Furthermore, this activity and behavior is elicited by corticotropin releasing hormone-containing afferent inputs into the LC from the central amygdala. These studies position the LC-NE system as a critical mediator of acute stress-induced anxiety and offer a potential intervention for preventing stress-related affective disorders.

Together these two objectives provide a rich technological toolbox for neuroscientists and yield important knowledge of how small catecholamine structures with widespread forebrain innervation can selectively mediate higher order behaviors.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Michael R Bruchas

Committee Members

Joseph D Dougherty, Robert W Gereau IV, Erik D Herzog, Timothy E Holy,


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