Anthony L. Riley, PhD Director, Psychopharmacology Lab

Dr. Tony Riley

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Anthony L. Riley received his BA degree from the University of North Carolina in I971, studying under Dr. Vincent M. LoLordo in the general field of animal learning and behavior. He completed his PhD at the University of Washington in 1974, under the direction of Dr. Robert C. Bolles in the general field of biological and evolutionary constraints on learning. From 1974 until 1976, Dr. Riley was a Killam Post-Doctoral Fellow at Dalhousie University, studying opioid receptor pharmacology. Dr. Riley was appointed as an Assistant Professor at American University in 1976 where he is currently Full Professor in the Department of Psychology. He is the past director of the Behavior, Cognition and Neuroscience PhD program and past chair of the department. He also holds an affiliate appointment in the Department of Biology at American and is a member of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and a Fellow of the Eastern Psychological Association.

Teaching & Awards

Dr. Riley has been involved in the teaching of a variety of classes, including Psychology as a Natural Science, Drugs and Behavior, Neuropharmacology and Evolution of Behavior. Dr. Riley also teaches Neuroscience Seminar in which upper level undergraduate and graduate students focus on current issues in the neurosciences, e.g., viral and bacterial infections, biochemical bases of therapeutics. While at American University, Dr. Riley has received the University Award for Outstanding Teaching (1981), the Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award from the College of Arts and Sciences for his laboratory work (1988), the College Arts and Sciences Award for Outstanding Teacher (1992), the American University Award for the Scholar/Teacher of the Year (2000) and most recently the American University Award for Outstanding Service to the University Community (2013). He was named the D.C. Professor of the Year (2000) by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation.


For the past 40 years, Dr. Riley has been involved in research focusing primarily on animal models of drug addiction. Specifically, his laboratory has investigated the affective properties of drugs and how they interact to influence drug intake. His initial interests in these properties focused on the drug's aversive effects (as assessed in the conditioned taste aversion preparation). In this context, his laboratory examined how drug history affects these properties and how they vary with sex, strain, concurrent drug administration and prenatal and maternal history. More recently, he has extended these same questions to the assessment of the reinforcing properties of drugs (as assessed in the conditioned place preference preparation). He has argued that the interaction of these two affective properties impact overall perceived acceptability and may be important to the drug's continued use. Further, he has suggested that manipulations (e.g., drug preexposure, maternal drug history) that affect either of these two properties may influence vulnerability to drug abuse.

He has published over 200 journal articles and book chapters and presented over 400 papers at national and international research conferences. His laboratory has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the MacArthur Foundation. Over 50 undergraduate students have worked in his laboratory and continued their scholarship at medical and graduate schools, and 38 students have earned their Ph.D. under Dr. Riley. He has served on a variety of editorial boards in the neurosciences and is an invited reviewer for a number of journals. Dr. Riley is currently an Associate Editor for the journal Pharmacology, Bioichemistry and Behavior.

University Service

Dr. Riley has been a continuing supporter of graduate education at American University, responsible for the evaluation and development of graduate curricula. He has also chaired and served on a variety of University program review committees that evaluated undergraduate and graduate curricula and programs within major teaching units.