Nora McCall

Entering Class - 2013

E-MAIL: mcca0841@umn.edu

UNDERGRAD INSTITUTION AND MAJOR:
Colby College, B.A. in Biology, 2011

GRADUATE ADVISOR
Kevin Wickman, Ph.D., Department of Pharmacology

THESIS COMMITTEE MEMBERS

DESCRIPTION OF GRADUATE RESEARCH
A long-term goal of work in the Wickman lab is to understand the mechanisms and relevance underlying drug-induced adaptations in key neuron populations implicated in addiction. We recently described a transient cocaine-induced suppression of G protein-dependent inhibitory signaling in dopamine (DA) neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a key element in the mesocorticolimbic system. This cocaine-induced adaptation required activation of D2 DA receptors and involved the internalization of G protein-gated inwardly rectifying K+ (GIRK/Kir3) channels, a key contributor to inhibitory feedback pathways that normally temper DA neurotransmission in the mesocorticolimbic system. The goals of my project are to better understand the mechanisms and neurophysiological impact underlying the cocaine-induced suppression of GIRK-dependent signaling in VTA DA neurons, and to determine the impact of GIRK channel manipulation in DA neurons on cocaine-induced reward-related behavior. To address these questions, I use brain slice electrophysiology, in vitro fast scan cyclic voltammetry, and behavioral analysis, in tandem with pharmacologic and neuron-specific genetic manipulations of GIRK-dependent signaling in mice. My research will expand our understanding of inhibitory cell signaling mechanisms that underlie drug addiction and will provide an initial assessment of the potential utility of GIRK channel manipulation for the treatment or prevention of addiction.

RESEARCH AREAS

  • Drug Abuse and Addiction

GRADUATE LEVEL PUBLICATIONS

  • McCall NM, Kotecki L, Dominguez-Lopez S, de Velasco EM, Carlblom N, Sharpe AL, Beckstead MJ, Wickman K. Selective Ablation of GIRK Channels in Dopamine Neurons Alters Behavioral Effects of Cocaine in Mice. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 Jul 29;. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Kotecki L, Hearing M, McCall NM, Marron Fernandez de Velasco E, Pravetoni M, Arora D, Victoria NC, Munoz MB, Xia Z, Slesinger PA, Weaver CD, Wickman K.GIRK Channels Modulate Opioid-Induced Motor Activity in a Cell Type- and Subunit-Dependent Manner. J Neurosci. 2015 May 6;35(18):7131-42.
  • Marron Fernandez de Velasco E, McCall NM, Wickman K. (2015) GIRK channel plasticity and implications for drug addiction. Int Rev Neurobiol. 123:201-238.

GRADUATE LEVEL ABSTRACTS

  • McCall NM, Victoria N, Kotecki L, Wickman K. (2015) Stress-induced GIRK channel signaling in midbrain neurons: implications for addiction. Abstract for poster presentation, Graduate Program in Neuroscience Annual Retreat 2015, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.
  • McCall N, Kotecki L, Victoria N, Carlbolm N, Wickman K. (2016) GIRK channels in VTA DA neurons regulate sensitivity to cocaine-related behaviors. Abstract for poster presentation, Winter Conference on Brain Research, Breckenridge, CO; Graduate Program in Neuroscience Annual Retreat 2016, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

GRADUATE LEVEL AWARDS

  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F31 NRSA), NIDA, 2016
  • Sping and Ying Ngoh Lin Award, 2016

ROTATIONS

GPN COMMITTEES

  • Seminar Committee, 2014-2016

PROFESSIONAL OUTREACH

  • Brain Awareness Week Instructor, 2013, 2014
  • Science Fair Judge, Murray Middle School, 2014, 2015

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

  • Society for Neuroscience, 2013-present

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE UMN?
I chose UMN because several faculty studied topics in which I was interested – drug addiction and stress/anxiety – and also had funding from the NIH. I have really enjoyed being a part of the community of researchers studying drug abuse and addiction brought together by the institutional NIDA training grant.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A FIRST YEAR GRADUATE STUDENT?Ask questions!!! Ask questions if you don’t know something, ask questions if you are curious about something. Look for answers by talking with your PI and your peers, and by searching the literature!

Nora McCall