Cecilia Flores, Ph.D.
I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and an Associate Member of the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University. I completed post-doctoral studies at Harvard Medical School and the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University. I have long been interested in the lasting effects of drugs on the brain. While my early work focused on drug-induced changes of the midbrain dopaminergic system with an emphasis on basic fibroblast growth factor, I soon became interested in the guidance cue netrin-1 and its effects on dopamine system development. I began as an assistant professor at McGill in 2004 and am actively involved in teaching and administrative work within my department and university. I run an active research laboratory at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and hold grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Les Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS), and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). I received the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology Young Investigator Award in 2010.
My work focuses on the long-lasting effects of drugs of abuse within the context of the adolescent development of the dopamine system. To this end, I investigate the role of the guidance cue netrin-1 and its receptors, DCC and UNC5C in the organization of the dopamine projections to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), a brain region shown to be important for the actions of drugs of abuse. My work in rodents has been the first to identify DCC as a protein involved specifically in the adolescent development of dopamine inputs to the mPFC. I next discovered that exposure to the stimulant drug amphetamine regulates DCC receptor expression and disrupts the normal course of mPFC dopamine development. My current aim is to determine whether DCC receptor-mediated disruption of mPFC dopamine development leads to structural and functional reorganization of PFC local circuitry and, consequently, influences cognitive processing in the adult.