During my graduate career, I worked with Dr. Todd Thiele at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where I studied the role of neuropeptide Y and corticotropin releasing factor in promoting different aspects of alcoholism. In my first postdoctoral position, I worked in the laboratory of Dr. Antonello Bonci at the University of California, San Francisco where I learned ex vivo slice electrophysiology. My final postdoctoral position was in the laboratory of Dr. Garret Stuber at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Here I learned optogenetic techniques as well as in vivo electrophysiology to show that parallel, but functionally opposing neurons from the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis bidrectionally modulate reward and aversion.
My recently established laboratory takes a systems neuroscience approach to examine the neural circuitry between the limbic and reward systems to uncover novel neural circuits involved in neuropsychiatric illness. The laboratory also has a strong focus in drug and alcohol addiction Our laboratory will employ both in vivo and ex vivo electrophysiology, optogenetics, freely moving calcium imaging, and advanced microscopy. Therefore, we will be able to identify, record, and manipulate discrete neural circuits to determine their role in disease states.
circuits, optogenetics, electrophysiology, behavior, imaging
Dennis R. Sparta, Garret D. Stuber (2014) Cartography of serotonergic circuits. Neuron. 83(3): 513-5.
Dennis R. Sparta, Nanna Hovelso, Alex O. Mason, Pranish A. Kantak Randall L. Ung, Heather K. Decot, Garret D. Stuber (2014) Activation of prefrontal cortical parvalbumin interneurons during the presentation of reward-predictive cues facilitates extinction. J Neurosci. 34(10):3699-705.
Joshua H. Jennings*, Dennis R. Sparta*, Alice M. Stamatakis, Randall L. Ung, Kristen E. Pleil, Thomas L. Kash, Garret D. Stuber (2013) Distinct extended amygdala circuits for reward and aversion. Nature 496(7444): 224-8.
Dennis. R. Sparta, Alice M. Stamatakis, Jana L. Phillips, Nanna Hovelso, Ruud van Zessen, Garret D. Stuber (2011) Construction of implantable optical fibers for long-term optogenetic manipulation of neural circuits. Nature Protocols 7: 12-23
Matthew J. Wanat*, Dennis R. Sparta*, F. Woodward Hopf, M. Scott Bowers, Miriam Melis, Antonello Bonci (2009) Strain specific synaptic modifications on VTA dopamine neurons after ethanol exposure. Biological Psychiatry 65 (8): 646-653.
2001-2002 Henry Rutgers Scholar
2003 Research Society on Alcoholism Student Merit Award
2004 Research Society on Alcoholism Student Merit Award
2005 Research Society on Alcoholism Student Merit Award
2006 Research Society on Alcoholism Student Merit Award
2006 NIH/NIAAA Travel Award to attend ISBRA in Sydney, Australia
2007 Research Society on Alcoholism Student Merit Award
2009 Research Society on Alcoholism Student Merit Award
2010 Research Society on Alcoholism Enoch Gordis Award Winner
2011 NIAAA Training Directors Meeting and Trainee Workshop Travel Award
2011 NIDA “Frontiers in Addiction Research” Travel Award
2012 Winter Conference on Brain Research Travel Fellowship
2012 Dutch Endo-Neuro-Psycho Meeting Travel Fellowship
2014 ACNP Early Career Travel Award
9/1/14-8/31/15 (PI: 100%)
“The Role of the BNST to VTA Neural Circuit in Binge Alcohol Consumption”
Annual Direct Costs: $150,877
Total Direct Costs: $301,754
8/4/05-8/3/07 (PI 100%)
“The Role of NPY on the Alcohol Deprivation Effect”
Annual Direct Costs: $29,166
Total Direct Costs: $58,332
8/16/09-8/15/12 (PI 100%)
“Enhanced CRF Signaling in the VTA Following Binge Drinking”
Annual Direct Costs: $47,210
Total Direct Costs: $141,630