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Discovering how drugs affect behavior

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Psychopharmacology Lab 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20016 United States

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Meet Dr. Tony Riley - Director of the Psychopharmacology Lab

Dr. Tony Riley describes the research that happens within the Psychopharmacology Lab.

About Us


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, locomotor testing and optogenetic manipulation. Additionally, we utilize several histological assays, such as fluorescence microscopy, qPCR, Western blot, immunohistochemistry, ELISA, spectrophotometry and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), among others.

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.

Our Facilities

Student pipetting
  • Olympus fluorescence microscope tethered to Image-Pro Plus software for image processing, enhancement and analysis
  • Ten chambers for schedule-controlled responding (including drug discrimination learning and schedule-induced polydipsia) tethered to a Med Associates interface
  • A full wet-lab bench used for the preparation of compounds for research projects and the preparation of biological tissues for subsequent analyses
  • Coulbourn Instruments operant chamber equipped with a Med Associates food hopper and drug infusion tether line and swivel
  • Eight San Diego Instruments automated conditioned place preference and locomotor testing chambers
  • Ten Colburn Instruments sound-attenuating operant chambers suitable for food and/or drug self-administration tethered to a Med Associates interface
  • VWR Symphony 2417R cold centrifuge
  • Jenway 6400 Spectrophotometer
  • Thermo Scientific CryoStar NX70 cryostat, a Jenway 6400 Spectrophotometer, a VWR Symphony 2417R cold centrifuge, a Fischer Scientific sonicator and a Daigger dissecting microscope
  • Q-Sonica ultrasonic homogenizer
  • Shimadzu UFLC-ECD
  • autosampler for HPLC analyses
  • Fully software-driven Leica stereotaxic instrument

Alumnae and Alumni

PhD Alumnae & Alumni

  • Doris Bitler
  • Greg Busse
  • Matt Clasen
  • Jennifer Cobuzzi
  • Robert Colnes
  • Bob Dacanay
  • Catherine Davis
  • Kevin Freeman
  • Katherine Ford
  • Meredith Fox
  • Beth Geter
  • Maria Gomez-Serrano
  • Sheri Grabus
  • Ivana Grakalic
  • Zach Hurwitz
  • Mary Anne Hutchison
  • Jermaine Jones
  • Mary Kautz
  • Heather King
  • Stephen Kohut
  • John Mastropaolo
  • Pam Melton
  • Debbie (Olin) Norris
  • Regina Ottaviani
  • Karen Pescatore
  • Rebecca Pomfrey
  • Said Pournaghash
  • Jovita Randall-Thompson
  • Jen Rinker
  • Pete Roma
  • Katie Serafine
  • Greg Simpson
  • Bai-Fang Xiao Sobel
  • Scott Smurthwaite
  • Scott Swartzwelder
  • Glenn Stevenson
  • Andrey Verendeev
  • Alison G.P. Wakeford
  • Bradley Wetzell
  • Debra Zellner

Master's Alumnae & Alumni

  • Dan Albaugh
  • Tracy (Titley) Aquino
  • Meredith (Blachett) Basil
  • Donna DeGeorge
  • Susan Etkind
  • Carolyn Ferrari
  • Shaun Flax
  • Kathy Ford
  • Jon Gore-Langton
  • Aurora Hutchinson
  • Ron Jeffreys
  • Lee Koetzner
  • Daniella Lancellotti
  • Diana Maltallana
  • Ashley Myracle
  • Jim Rebetta
  • David Shurtleff
  • Nuthia Sundararaman
  • Anita Taylor
  • Janani Vishwanath
  • Peter Winsauer
  • Katrina Zaiens

Faculty and Graduate Students

Dr. Tony Riley

Dr. Tony Riley

For the past 40 years, Dr. Riley has been involved in research focusing primarily on animal models of drug addiction.

About Tony

Tony and Raul pose together

Dr. Raul López-Arnau

Dr. López-Arnau researches the synthetic cathinones (aka "bath salts").

About Raul

Tony and Hayley

Hayley N. Manke

Hayley studies the behavioral effects of the synthetic cathinones.

About Hayley

Briana and her team of undergraduate research assistants

Briana J. Hempel

Briana's research focus is on developing a viable model of marijuana abuse.

About Briana

Katie and her team of undergraduate research assistants

Katharine H. Nelson

Katie's research is focused on characterizing the synthetic cathinones.

About Katie

Undergraduate Students

Jacob Bailey Lifeguard Uniform

Jacob Bailey

Jacob is learning skills in the psychopharmacology lab to use in the future as a special agent.

About Jacob

Tony and Maddie

Maddie Crissman

Maddie studies the behavioral effects of marijuana.

About Maddie

Karina Maradiaga Guevara

Karina Maradiaga Guevara

Karina hopes to take her lab experience and become a pediatric physician. 

About Karina

Anna Vlachos

Anna Vlachos

Anna's research interests lie in drug abuse and addiction

About Anna

Tania Weiss

Tania Weiss

Tania is interested in how drugs change the biochemistry of the brain, and affect the development of the fetus in utero

About Tania