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Research interests

Dr. Zheng-Ming Ding’s NIH-funded research is focused on elucidating neurobiological mechanisms underlying the development of substance use disorders, including nicotine and alcohol.

Dr. Ding utilizes behavioral paradigms to characterize various behavioral effects of drugs of abuse related to motivation and reward. Neurochemical, molecular biological and chemogenetic techniques are employed to investigate the involvement of neurotransmitter systems, intracellular proteins and neuro-circuits in mediating the effects of drugs of abuse.

His major project studies the involvement of cotinine, the major metabolite of nicotine, in the development of nicotine reinforcement. This project characterizes the rewarding and reinforcing effects of cotinine and neurochemical mechanisms underlying these effects in rats. The interactions between nicotine and cotinine in producing reinforcement is also investigated. Results from this project will provide evidence implicating cotinine as a major factor contributing to nicotine addiction and identify cotinine as a target for future development of smoking cessation medications.

Dr. Ding’s second project studies the role of prefrontal cortex in alcohol reinforcement and drinking. This project investigates the glutamate neurotransmission and neuro-circuits within and from the prefrontal cortex in the development of alcohol reinforcement and high alcohol drinking.

His third project examines a potential association between the development of Alzheimer’s disease-like pathological changes and the development of nicotine addiction. This project characterizes nicotine reward-related behaviors in a transgenic rat model of Alzheimer’s disease and seeks to associate these behavioral changes with Alzheimer’s-specific protein changes in the brain.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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