The Psychopharmacology Laboratory at American University focuses on a variety of research issues, all of which have animal models of drug use and abuse as their basis. We examine the genetic and epigenetic components of drug intake, prenatal and adolescent drug exposure, drug interactions, the neuropharmacological mediation of drug effects, the molecular-level biochemical mechanisms of neuroplasticity induced by chronic drug administration and the interaction of the reinforcing and aversive effects underlying drug acceptability.
These assessments are made through a variety of animal behavioral models, including drug self-administration, conditioned place preference and aversion, conditioned taste aversion, schedule-controlled responding, drug discrimination learning and locomotor testing. Additionally, we utilize several histological assays, such as fluorescence microscopy, quantitative real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction testing (qPCR), Western blot (protein immunoblot) analysis, immunohistochemistry, ELISA, spectrophotometry and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
The lab consists of a core space surrounded by three behavioral running rooms and an additional room dedicated to drug storage and preparation, as well as wet assays and histology. The graduate student office is adjacent to the lab. All animal housing is in an adjacent secure facility which can house up to 500 animals in six individual temperature-controlled housing rooms. This area also houses food and bedding storage, cage and bottle washing facilities and common rooms for injections and surgeries.