• July 24, 2021
 UTEP Researcher to Study How Brains Seek Out Rewards

UTEP Researcher to Study How Brains Seek Out Rewards

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation awarded UTEP School of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Ian Mendez, Ph.D., a two-year $70,000 grant to study the role that a neurotransmitter called enkephalin plays in cue-induced reward seeking behavior.

“When stimuli in our environment, such as lights or sounds, are repeatedly paired with rewards, they gain a powerful ability to increase an individual’s motivation to obtain and consume rewards,” Mendez explained. “This cue-induced increase in reward seeking motivation is often cited by addicts as a primary trigger for their relapse. While release of the neurotransmitter dopamine within the brain has been long implicated in cue-induced reward seeking behavior, recent studies suggest that another neurotransmitter, enkephalin, may also be involved.”

Dr. Mendez will use a behavioral pharmacology approach to investigate changes in reward seeking behavior and implement neurochemical approaches to examine possible interactions between dopamine and enkephalin driving the reward-seeking actions.

Mendez joined the UTEP faculty in 2017. He earned a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Texas A&M University and has over 15 years of experience working in cellular and behavioral neuroscience.

Mendez received the foundation’s NARSAD Young Investigator grant, which provides each scientist with up to $35,000 per year for two years, totaling $70,000 to enable promising investigators to either extend research fellowship training or begin careers as independent research faculty.

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds mental health research.

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