In October 2012, Brad Grueter, PhD, and Carrie Grueter, PhD, joined the Department. This husband and wife are both doctoral graduates of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt University. The goal of the Grueter lab research program is to advance the current understanding of the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain region responsible for integrating information from diverse inputs and modifying complex motivated behaviors, including its involvement in adaptive responses to rewarding and aversive stimuli. Specifically, we strive to elucidate the molecular constituents in the NAc that are necessary and sufficient to drive complex motivated behaviors. As part of the mesolimbic dopamine system, the NAc integrates a complex mix of excitatory, inhibitory and modulatory inputs to optimize adaptive motivated behaviors. Dynamic alterations in synaptic transmission within this circuitry are strongly implicated in the development and expression of many neuropsychiatric disorders. Thus, two broad questions we address are: 1) how does in vivo experience such as cocaine exposure, pain, or high fat diet alter the neurocircuitry of the NAc? 2.) What are the synaptic mechanisms underlying the behavioral adaptations to in vivo experience? The approaches we incorporate allow us to thoroughly characterize the synaptic circuitry of the NAc in basal and pathophysiological conditions using a combination of cutting edge techniques in electrophysiology, molecular biology, metabolic phenotyping, optogenetics and behavior. These studies will provide information on how the NAc circuits integrate environmental stimuli and allow for specific behavioral responses. This enhanced understanding of NAc function may provide a basis for a more individualized approach to the treatment of many psychiatric disorders.