I am a senior at American University, and this is my third year working in the Psychopharmacology Lab. I am interested in animal models of adolescent drug use, as this is when most humans first experiment with drugs of abuse. I am currently working on a project to assess the acquisition of MDPV-induced taste aversions in adolescent and adult rats. MDPV is one of the primary constituents in a new designer drug most commonly known as "bath salts" and is a stimulant with similar pharmacological action to methamphetamine or MDMA. Given that vulnerability to drug use and abuse is thought to be a balance between the aversive and rewarding properties of that drug, both affective properties are often examined. Using a conditioned taste aversion procedure (CTA), a popular model for assessing the aversive properties of a drug, I will seek to determine if MDPV parallels other drugs of abuse (such as morphine, nicotine and alcohol) such that adolescents show attenuated aversions compared to adults. In addition to the CTA procedure, I will also be assessing thermoregulation and quantifying levels of monoamines (dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine) and their metabolites in sections of cortex and striatum in response to repeated MDPV exposure.
Hurwitz ZH, Merluzzi AP, Riley AL. Age-dependent differences in morphine-induced taste aversions. Dev Psychobiology 2012. [PDF]
Briscione MA, Serafine KM, Merluzzi AP, Riley AL. The assessment of 5-HT3 receptor antagonism on cocaine-induced conditioned taste aversions in preparation.
Merluzzi AP, Hurwitz ZE, Briscione MA, Cobuzzi, JL, Wetzell, B. An assessment of MDPV-induced taste aversions in adolescent and adult Sprague-Dawley rats in preparation.
Merluzzi, AP. (2012, April). Age-Dependent differences in morphine-induced taste aversions. Poster presented at the Undergraduate Research Conference, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Merluzzi, AP. (2012, March). Age-Dependent differences in morphine-induced taste aversions. Poster presented at the 22nd annual Robyn Rafferty Mathias Student Research Conference, American University, Washington, DC.