Dr. Dulcis' research projects focus on circuit-specific neurotransmitter plasticity in the developing and adult brain. His studies have shown that altering the activation of neural circuits in the developing brain by natural stimuli, such as ambient light (Nature, 2008) and olfactory cues (Neuron, 2017), changes the number of neurons expressing dopamine.
Significantly, Dr. Dulcis found that newly-expressing dopaminergic neurons serve the same behavior as the native population of dopaminergic neurons.
He also discovered behaviorally relevant transmitter switching in the mature mammalian brain (Science, 2013, JN 2020).
In his laboratory, Dr. Dulcis is testing the generality of this novel form of calcium-mediated plasticity (J. Neuroscience, 2011). He found that social stress (JN, 2020) as well as exposure to psychostimulants (BBI, 2017), induce transmitter switching in neurons of the activated circuits affecting behavior (Develop Neurobiol, 2012).
Identifying the neuronal circuits responsive to activity-dependent transmitter switching is critical to determining its translational applicability (J. Chem. Neuroanatomy, 2015). Likely, the underlying activity-dependent molecular mechanism and its gene regulation can be probed with great sophistication using transgenic mice.
Dr. Dulcis is currently carrying out studies to uncover the molecular signaling of this novel form of neuroplasticity and test whether selective circuit activation promotes transmitter respecification affecting behaviors in translational animal models relevant to a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions including mood disorders (EJP, 2015; NPP, 2018; JN 2020), addiction (Biol.Psyichiatry 2019), and Parkinson's disease (NRR, 2019).