Welcome to the Luciana Lab!


The focus of my research is to examine brain/behavior relationships in adults and children. Specifically, I am interested in the neurobiology of behaviors that are mediated by the brain's prefrontal cortex, including working memory, planning, and emotional control. My research program examines this area through several avenues: (a) Pharmacological studies of normal adults: Adults are administered drugs or natural compounds that activate selected neurotransmitter systems in the brain (e.g., dopamine and serotonin). While under the influence of these manipulations, cognition and emotional functions are examined to determine how the transmitters affect specific behaviors; (b) Studies of clinical populations with aberrations in either dopamine or serotonin pathways. We are currently studying Ecstasy users as compared with depressed people, as well as people with the genetic disorder, PKU; (c) Developmental studies in adolescents. The development of prefrontally-mediated cognitive behaviors is being studied in healthy adolescents, ages 9-21, in order to determine when adult levels are reached. We are focusing on differential development of the dorsolateral versus ventromedial prefrontal cortices.