So basically, the studies will look at the involvement of the cholinergic system in drug abuse, more specifically in the meso-accumbens dopamine system which is critical in behavioral sensitization. Sensitization is an animal model of human drug abuse. It's one of those cases where repeated administration of drugs of abuse cause greater and greater responding in this system. This system is activated by all drugs commonly self-administered by people and animals and all those drugs produced this sensitization. So since it's a model of human drug abuse, many drug labs spend their time poking this system, trying to see what is necessary to produce sensitization and what blocks it. In my case, we're looking at the cholinergic inputs into this dopamine pathway that is known to be critical. So as we administer the drug of abuse (in this first study it'll be nicotine) we squirt into the brain some mecamylamine, a cholinergic antagonist to block some of the receptors in this brain region. We repeat this than give a challenge dose of nicotine and see if sensitization has occured. If it dosen't (and by God it better not or I'm going to beat to death the first person I see afterwards and skullfuck them) then we know that activation of those receptors are a necessary step in the development of behavioral sensitization. The move next is to try different brain areas (so far there are 5 we'll be looking at), different drugs of abuse (nicotine and amphetamine) and different blockers and doses of blockers.
All in all I figure I'm looking at around 300 rats total, minimum to finish the whole thing if we do it. To give you an idea of the time investment...to run each rat it takes a 40-60 minute surgery to implant the cannulae. They then are allowed to recover for 7-10 days or so. Then they're placed into the locomotor chambers to moniter activity the first and last pre-exposure drug injection of which there are 4 total, one every other day. Each locomotor run will take me 5 hours of run time and probaly a hour minimum for setup. 2 weeks later the locomotor test will occur again with a challenge dose of nicotine or amphetamine, again another 5 hours and 1 hour setup. I can run up to 8 rats at a time if I receive help during the microinjections into the brain.
And the sad thing is that's just the locomotor part of this study. I would have to do much of this whole damn thing over again for dialysis and for self-administration if we go that route. We're talking probaly thousands of man hours in total. Bleh.
I've got 10 rats to start with that I'll need to start on ASAP, but I need to churn out that proposal for monday first. It's going to be a long haul.
BTW, in case anyone actually made it to the end of this....who the heck is tinkersowner