Research Interests:

Rodent Model of Schizophrenia

    In this line of research, our laboratory has analyzed the behavioral and neurochemical consequences of dopamine D2-like supersensitization. The dopamine D2 receptor is increased in its sensitivitythrough neonatal quinpirole (a dopamine D2/D3 agonist) treatment during the first three weeks of life in a rat. This increase in sensitivity does not result in a change in receptor number, and persists throughout the animal’s lifetime. Over several years of work, we have found that neonatal quinpirole treatment enhances behavioral sensitization and rewarding effects of nicotine. This is especially important because approximately 80% of schizophrenics smoke cigarettes, and they smoke heavily. Ultimately, this results in a poor quality of life and shortens the average lifespan in a smoking schizophrenic. Our primary interest here is to try to identify behavioral and neurobiological targets for treating smoking in schizophrenia.

Consequences of Ritalin in Adolescence

    A newer line of research involves studying the behavioral and neurobiological effects of methylphenidate (trade name: Ritalin) in adolescent male and female rats. Ritalin is the most often prescribed medication for Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This disorder is also often incorrectly diagnosed. Therefore, we are not currently using a model for this area of research, but analyzing the effects of methylphenidate on behavioral sensitization and place conditioning, as well as sex differences in these responses.

Behavioral diagnosticians

    For various collaborations, we have become “behavioral diagnosticians.” Essentially, we run behavioral tests for various collaborators, which runs the gamut for manipulations including chronic stress, lentivirus manipulations, cerebral ischemia, or traumatic brain injury.