I am a highly trained behavioral pharmacologist conducting translational research pairing complex behavioral tasks with measures of brain function to aid our understanding of CNS disorders including Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and develop novel pharmacotherapies for these conditions. My laboratory conducts drug self-administration studies and cognitive assessments and evaluates brain function in rodents using electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). I have extensive experience examining pharmacological manipulations on behavior/brain function using allosteric modulators as well as classic orthosteric ligands (e.g. muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine, and glutamatergic receptor pharmacology) across preclinical models of addiction, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and aging.
Ongoing research involves understanding how altered brain function contributes to the prolongation of substance use disorder (SUD) or relapse potential and how normalizing aspects of aberrant brain function may facilitate successful addiction treatments. Long-lasting neurobiological changes contribute to substance-induced disorders including cognitive impairments, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depressive-like symptoms. Sleep disturbances represent an under-appreciated symptom that directly affect executive function and daytime arousal and contribute to relapse. The same neurotransmitters known to be disrupted following drug use also regulate sleep and arousal. Modeling and attempting to reverse these substance-induced disorders, specifically sleep disturbances, represents a new treatment approach for SUD with direct application to human studies and/or clinical trials. Moreover, designing longitudinal studies to assess effects of acute and repeated use of illicit drugs on brain function allows us to establish dose-effect relationships on an individual level to examine factors affecting vulnerability to transition to addiction, as well as relapse potential. Although present studies will focus on understanding factors contributing to cocaine use disorder, sleep and cognitive impairments are hallmark symptoms of all SUDs (e.g. nicotine, opioids, alcohol) as well as most neuropsychiatric disorders, providing many opportunities to extend and develop collaborations across disciplines and departments.