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Psychopharmacology | Lab Members

Bella Muller

mm8295a@student.american.edu 

I am a senior majoring in psychology and pursuing pre-med studies. While working in the lab, I hope to understand the multiple factors that contribute to drug use and abuse and how to apply this understanding using experimental methods of research. Our lab’s focus is the behavioral and biological bases of drug use, which may provide insight into the treatment and prevention of drug abuse. Furthermore, we assess both the aversive and rewarding properties of drugs, which are thought to impact the vulnerability to use and abuse.

The most recent study on which I have worked examines methylphenidate (MPH) pre-exposure on MPH-induced conditioned taste aversions (CTA) in adult rats. It is known that the aversive effects of a drug are attenuated following exposure to that drug (and in some cases other drugs from the same class). However, previous research in the lab has reported that rats exposed to MPH during adolescence do not show attenuated MPH-induced conditioned taste aversions as adults. It is unclear if MPH is simply incapable of producing US pre-exposure effects or if the age of exposure to MPH, particularly during adolescence, may contribute to the lack of such effect in MPH-induced aversions. Consistent with this latter possibility is the fact that earlier work in which I was involved examined age-related differences in methylphenidate (MPH) induced conditioned taste aversions (CTA) in adolescents and adults. Interestingly, adolescents administered MPH show attenuated conditioned taste aversions compared to adults, suggesting that age during MPH exposure may alter the aversive effect of MPH.

These effects of pre-exposure on the aversive effects of drugs are important, because such attenuation alters the affective balance of drugs to potentially increase abuse liability. By further examining the age-dependent differences in the aversive and rewarding responses to various drugs, we can better understand the underlying biological mechanisms that mediate these responses, potentially finding therapeutic and preventive measures to drug abuse in different age groups. In the future, I plan to expand my knowledge and skills in neuropsychopharmacology and conduct further research on the behavioral and biological basis of drug use.

 

PUBLICATIONS

Muller, M; Wetzell, B, Flax, SM; King, HE; Decicco-Skinner, KL; Riley, AL. (In Preparation) The Effect of Preexposure on Methylphenidate-Induced Conditioned Taste Avoidance and related BDNF/TrkB signaling in the Nucleus Accumbens and Insular Cortex.

Wetzell, B; Muller, M; Cobuzzi, JL; Hurwitz, ZE; Decicco-Skinner, KL; Riley, AL. (Under review). Effect of age on methylphenidate-induced conditioned taste avoidance and related BDNF/TrkB signaling in the insular cortex. Psychopharmacology.

 

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

 

Poster Presentations

Muller, MM; Wetzell, BB; Flax, SM; King, HE; Riley, AL. Effect of preexposure on methylphenidate-induced conditioned taste avoidance. Poster Presentation, Discover the Sciences event sponsored by American University’s Scientific Advisory Council, Washington, DC; October 2013.

Wetzell, BB; Muller, MM; Cobuzzi, JL; Hurwitz, ZE; Riley, AL. Effect of age on methylphenidate-induced conditioned taste avoidance and related BDNF/TrkB signaling in the insular cortex. Poster Presentation, Discover the Sciences event sponsored by American University’s Scientific Advisory Council, Washington, DC; October 2013.

Muller, M; Wetzell, B; Cobuzzi, JL; Hurwitz, ZE; Riley, AL. Age-dependent differences in methylphenidate-induced conditioned taste aversions. Poster Presentation, Gateway to Your Future Conference, College of Arts and Sciences, American University, Washington, DC; January 2013.

Muller, M; Wetzell, B; Cobuzzi, JL; Hurwitz, ZE; Riley, AL. Age-dependent differences in methylphenidate-induced conditioned taste aversions. Poster Presentation, Discover the Sciences event sponsored by American University’s Scientific Advisory Council, Washington, DC; October 2012.

Bella Muller