My primary research interest involves the aversive effects of drugs, specifically designs measuring drugs’ aversive effects in animal models. Although the rewarding effects of drugs have been well characterized, much less attention has been given to understanding the aversive effects of drugs and how they may impact their use and abuse.
As a second-year master’s student in the Psychopharmacology Laboratory, I am currently conducting the study for my Master’s thesis which will examine the extent to which conditioned taste and place aversions, the two most commonly used designs for measuring the aversive effects of drugs, are comparable in their ability to index such effects. Although both designs are purported to measure drugs’ aversive effects, several studies using drugs of abuse suggest that the two designs may not be comparable in that these drugs produce both a CTA and conditioned place preference, an often-used index of the rewarding effects of drugs. My study will make a direct comparison between conditioned taste and place aversion procedures, which is necessary to establish a sensitive and reliable index of measuring drugs’ aversive effects. Given that use and abuse vulnerability is a function of the balance of a drug’s rewarding and aversive effects, a sensitive and reliable index of such aversive effects is important in understanding this balance and the factors that may impact it.