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CDAP > Basic Science Research, Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Basic Science Research, Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Basic science researchers in the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs use a variety of experimental methods to increase the understanding of behaviors associated with alcohol and substance abuse.  These researchers are often involved at a cellular level and with animal models.  Basic research is conducted to gather valuable data that can be applied to human condition.  Basic science research is an extremely important step in understanding the behaviors and events associated with alcohol and substance abuse.  Clinical research rests on the foundation of this basic research. 

CDAP Basic Science Researchers:

Dr. Howard BeckerDr. Howard Becker
Dr. Becker’s research interests include neuropsychopharmacology of alcohol and other drugs of abuse and mechanisms underlying initial sensitivity to CNS drug effects, as well as neuroadaptive changes that result from chronic drug exposure (tolerance and dependence).
Dr. L. Judson ChandlerDr. L. Judson Chandler
Dr. Chandler’s research program is focused on understanding the fundamental processes that underlie the plasticity of the nervous system. In particular, his laboratory is investigating how the brain changes and adapts in response to environmental influences such as exposure to drugs of abuse and alcohol. It is widely believed that changes in glutamatergic neurotransmission mediate the neuroadaptive processes of addiction and tolerance. Areas of research interest include receptor trafficking and synaptic localization, signal transduction, and dendritic spine dynamics. Techniques being employed include cell culture, molecular and biochemical procedures, confocal and multiphoton imaging, and in vitro electrophysiology.
Dr. Tripp GriffinDr. William (Tripp) Griffin 
Dr. Griffin's research interests broadly include understanding the neurobiological adaptations in the brain that may underlie the urge to drink and the maintenance of alcohol drinking. Areas of active investigation consist of examining the glutamatergic, cholinergic and neuropeptide (CRF) signaling systems in brain regions that regulate alcohol consumption. An emerging area of Dr. Griffin's research is examining the interactive effects of alcohol with methylphenidate (Ritalin) on behavior and various neurotransmitter systems in forebrain areas.
Dr. Peter KalivasDr. Peter Kalivas
The Kalivas lab studies neuroplasticity underlying the development of addiction to drugs of abuse.  Research is at the level of protein biochemistry, neural circuitry, and dendritic spine morphology, as well as behavioral modeling.  The current focus is in adaptations in excitatory neurotransmission and elucidating the fundamental role of extracellular glutamate homeostasis in regulating neurotransmission and neuroplasticity.  This has led to preclinical and clinical evaluations of specific proteins as targets in treating addiction, including metabotropic glutamate receptors and the cystine-glutamate exchanger.
Dr. Marcelo LopezDr. Marcelo Lopez
Dr. Lopez is studying the role of stress on alcohol intake and alcohol dependence, the impact of environmental factors on relapse, and the role of learning in the development of addiction. 
Dr. Jacqueline McGintyDr. Jacqueline McGinty
Dr. McGinty’s research focuses on the effects of drugs of abuse on neurotransmitter release and gene expression in the rat brain and the effects of methamphetamine neurotoxicity in neurotrophic factor knockout mice during aging.  Currently Dr. McGinty is using cDNA microarray technology, in situ hybridization, immunoblotting, and immunohistochemistry to characterize changes in gene expression that may signify longterm neuroadaptations in the brain thought to underlie drug and alcohol addiction and neurotoxicity during aging. 
Dr. Patrick Mulholland
The focus of Dr. Mulholland's research is to study neuroplasticity that contributes to alcohol dependence, relapse and withdrawal hyperexcitability.  Currently, his work is using electrophysiology, confocal imaging and biochemical analysis to characterize alterations in voltage- and calcium-activated potassium channels that underlie aberrant neuroadaptations in glutamate signaling systems.
Dr. Ron SeeDr. Ron See
Dr. See’s research lab is centered around four current research projects. The first project involves neural substrates of addiction and relapse, using animal models of chronic psychostimulant and opiate self administration to study the role of specific brain nuclei and neurotransmitter systems in mediating drug-taking and drug-seeking behavior. The second project relates to translational research in addiction, with the ultimate goal of determining successful pharmacotherapies for the treatment of drug abuse and dependence. The next research topic is focused on determining sex differences and ovarian hormone regulation in a model of relapse to cocaine-seeking behavior produced by various stimuli. The final focus of Dr. See’s current research is directed toward understanding the mechanisms of short- and long-term antipsychotic drug action in the brain.
Dr. Corigan SmothersDr. Corigan Smothers
Dr. Smother’s primary research focus is in elucidating the mechanisms that underlie the effects of alcohol on central nervous system function.  Alcohol inhibits the function of a specific subtype of glutamate receptor that is involved in learning and memory. The sensitivity of this receptor to alcohol is influenced by its subunit composition. Determining how subunits composition alters alcohol sensitivity would provide novel insights in the mechanisms of how alcohol perturbs receptor function.
Dr. John WoodwardDr. John Woodward
Dr. Woodward’s lab is focused on defining the neural sites of action of alcohol and abused inhalants such as toluene and TCE. Alcohol and abused inhalants produce diverse effects on neuronal function by altering the function of different types of ion channels that regulate neuronal excitability. These include voltage dependent channels as well as those gated by neurotransmitters such as glutamate, Ach and ATP. Electrophysiological recording techniques are used to directly measure the function of both recombinant and native channels while site-directed mutagenesis is used to probe for discrete sites of action on the ion channel itself.

For more information about CDAP research, please see the latest in CDAP faculty publications on alcohol and substance abuse.   

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