Does serotonin calm you down?  Are antidepressant drugs “happy pills”?  Is dopamine the pleasure neurotransmitter?  Is there evidence for an opioid-mediated “runners’ high” or a thrill-induced “adrenaline rush”?  Do opioids suppress pain by inducing a state of bliss?  Does vaping nicotine eliminate the health risks associated with cigarette smoking?  Is the concept of medical marijuana baseless and merely a ploy by people trying to get stoned? These questions lie at the heart of neuropsychopharmacology, which is the study of the physiological and behavioral functions of neurotransmitter systems in the central nervous system and how drugs may impact these systems.  This presentation will provide an overview of the neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of some of the major neurotransmitter systems by focusing on the following topics:  1) The neural signaling mechanisms associated with neurotransmitter receptors and transporters.  2) The functional and behavioral significance of neurotransmitter systems and the brain circuitry involved.  3) The current and emerging evidence for the neurobiological bases for prominent neurological and psychiatric disorders.  4) The pharmacological mechanisms of action of common therapeutic and recreational drugs.  Following this presentation, attendees should be familiar with the functions of neurotransmitter systems and the pharmacology of some common psychoactive drugs.  They should also appreciate how current scientific evidence answers each of the questions posed above with a resounding “no”.

Philip Holmes, PhD

Dr. Philip Holmes is Chair of the Neuroscience Program of the Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute and Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Georgia.  He also teaches neuroanatomy and behavioral neuroscience at the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership.  Dr. Holmes earned his Ph.D. at Brown University and completed his postdoctoral training in the Experimental Therapeutics Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health.  Dr. Holmes’s research focuses on the role of catecholamine neurotransmitters in stress, motivation, and cognitive function.  For many years, the Holmes laboratory has been examining how exercise changes patterns of gene expression in noradrenergic neurons and how such changes mediate the beneficial effects of exercise on stress resilience and cognitive function.  More recently, Dr. Holmes has focused on how endocrine changes may interact with noradrenergic systems to impact stress and cognition.