Ana Verónica Domingues

  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Ventral pallidum
  • Ventral tegmental area
  • endogenous opioids
  • Reward
  • Aversion

My name is Verónica Domingues and I am a PhD student at the School of Medicine, University of Minho.
I am interested in exploring the neural basis of motivation. Using new cutting-edge neuroscience techniques (e.g. optogenetics, fiber photometry and calcium imaging using miniscopes), I am identifying and characterizing the neuronal ensembles representing rewarding and aversion, ranging from exposure to natural rewards (e.g. food) or drugs of abuse (e.g cocaine), to exposure to foot shock. More precisely, I intend to understand the role of the nucleus accumbens direct pathway (D1- medium spiny neurons (MSN) projections) and indirect pathway (D1- and D2-MSN projections) in reward-related behaviours and if these processes are mediated by endogenous opioid release. I am also currently studying the impact of early life exposure to stress hormones on the neural circuits of effort-based decision making and motivation, in particular cortical projections from the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc) and ventral tegmental area. I showed for the first time that in utero exposure to high levels of glucocorticoids programs the developing brain by changing ACC-NAc functional connectivity, impairing effort and motivated behaviors.

Scientific Highlights

-DOMINGUES AV, Coimbra B, Correia R, Deseyve C, Vieitas-Gaspar N, Floresco SB, Sousa N, Soares-Cunha C, Rodrigues AJ. “Prenatal dexamethasone exposure alters effort decision making and triggers nucleus accumbens and anterior cingulate cortex functional changes in male rats”. Transl Psychiatry 2022 Doi:10.1038/s41398-022-02043-4.
-Soares-Cunha C, DOMINGUES AV, Correia R, Coimbra B, Vieitas-Gaspar N, de Vasconcelos NAP, Pinto L, Sousa N, Rodrigues AJ. “Distinct role of nucleus accumbens D2-MSN projections to ventral pallidum in different phases of motivated behavior” Cell Rep. 2022. Doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110380
-DOMINGUES AV, Pereira IM,Vilaça-Faria H, Salgado AJ, Rodrigues AJ, Teixeira FG. “Glial cells in Parkinson´s disease: protective or deleterious?”. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2020 Dec Doi: 10.1007/s00018-020-03584-x.

2019- Travel award for the ECNP workshop on Neuropsychopharmachology for Junior Scientists in Europe, March 2019, Nice, France
2019- PhD Fellowship, granted by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT)
2022- Grant for Cajal course on Neural circuit basis of computation and behaviour, May, 2022
2022 – Travel award to attend ISN, granted by ISN


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Sensory signals of associative learning

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