I am a behavioral neuroscientist, with a strong emphasis in psychopharmacology. My research background actually began in the cognitive arena, analyzing underlying mechanisms of behavioral ecological mechanisms in Dr. Lynn Devenport’s lab at the University of Oklahoma. This work continued in the laboratories of Dr. Phil Kraemer and Dr. Stephen Scheff at the University of Kentucky studying ontogeny of learning and memory and rodents, timing behavior in avians, as well as pharmacological approaches to improve compensation after traumatic brain injury. I have always had a strong research interest in brain plasticity and its response to experience.
At the end of my graduate school career, we began to analyze the effects of nicotine on cognitive function and in a rodent model of traumatic brain injury. I carried on this work in the laboratories of Drs. Bryan Kolb and Ian Whishaw at the University of Lethbridge, expanding my interests into the effects of nicotine on brain plasticity and compensation after brain injury.
I took a faculty position at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in August of 2000, and through a collaboration, began pursuing mechanisms of psychostimulant addiction using a model of dopamine D2 receptor supersensitivity that originated in Dr. Rich Kostrzewa’s lab in the Department of Pharmacology at the School of Medicine at ETSU. Although Rich’s interests were more directed towards Parkinson’s Disease and neurotoxicity, I realized this model had potential as a model of schizophrenia. From that point on, a major research focus in our lab centered on comorbidity in behavioral disorders, especially substance abuse in schizophrenia using the neonatal quinpirole model.
Another recent focus has been to analyze the effects of methylphenidate on neural plasticity. Thus far, we have found some interesting effects of methylphenidate that are sex- and dose-dependent. Future studies will analyze mechanisms of these changes.
I have a strong publication history of behavioral testing in rats and mice, and the effects of drugs of abuse on neuroplasticity using preclinical models. Specifically, we have several papers and a strong research background analyzing the effects of nicotine on behavior and neuroplasticity. My lab has more recently attained several skills in neurochemical and neuroprotein analyses, including microdialysis, ELISA, and in situ hybridization.