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Tim O'Neal is a research assistant at University of Chicago


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Tim O'Neal '14

Research Assistant, University of Chicago

Major in Neuroscience

Tim's Honors project at Knox focused on the study of methamphetamine addiction and withdrawal in rats.

Tim O'Neal is a research assistant at University of Chicago

Can you tell us about your honors project?

Broadly, my research is attempting to combat the negative behavioral effects caused by long-term methamphetamine addiction and withdrawal. More specifically, I am looking at the effect of blocking a single protein in the brain -- the sigma-1 receptor -- on a range of behavioral measures (anxiety, depression, locomotion) in rats at distinct stages of drug use. I am also biochemically investigating how levels of the sigma-1 receptor vary in brain regions related to reward-seeking, reward-attainment, and reward-learning throughout drug use and into withdrawal.

What prompted your interest in this topic?

Last winter term, Knox's Neuroscience Program offered Hedonism term, an inclusive term with classes focused on specific types of pleasure: Human Sexuality (sex), Behavioral Pharmacology (drugs), and Pleasures of the Brain ("higher-order" pleasures). I became fascinated with the way the brain's reward circuits remodel throughout drug use to mechanize drug-seeking behavior, and I decided to do an honors project to look at how these changes manifest behaviorally.

What do you hope to pursue now that you've graduated?

I eventually intend to get my Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience, with a focus on addiction neuroscience at both the clinical and the neuropharmacological levels. My ideal career would be a full-time researcher, working on drug-design research to develop more effective treatments for addiction.

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Printed on Sunday, December 10, 2023