Per NIDA, nicotine is the second most common drug of abuse in the USA (after alcohol), and chronic nicotine use is a leading cause of preventable death, mostly owing to the deleterious effects of tobacco consumption. The molecular targets and neuronal circuitry underlying nicotine dependence have been studied extensively, but mechanistic understanding of how plastic changes to these drive physical dependence is still lacking. The Peters lab in Anatomy and Cell Biology is a new research group interested in probing these mechanisms at multiple layers of organization. A GEMS PhD rotation student will have the opportunity to perform a preliminary investigation of neuronal activity patterns of the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN), a critical nexus in regulating negative reward behaviors associated with dependence and addiction. Using the latest in fluorescent calcium sensors (gCamp7 fluorophores), the student will learn acute brain slice methods and tissue imaging techniques in order to map baseline and nicotine-sensitive neuronal activity in subregions of the IPN. The long term goals of this project are to describe the information processing pathways among multiple distinct populations of IPN neurons to shape that region’s output to monoaminergic nuclei, and to establish how their activity patterns cause symptoms of nicotine withdrawal in live animals. These would represent potential primary objectives for the student should they elect to join the lab following their rotations, and the skills gained from the rotation project are directly applicable to pursing these long term goals.