Post-Grant Reports


Behavioral and Neural Pharmacology of Drug-Seeking Behavior and Addiction

Document Type


Publication Date



Behavioral Neurobiology | Health Psychology | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction


This sabbatical allowed me to secure a Visiting Scientist position in the Behavioral Neuroscience Department at OHSU where I collaborated with Dr. Christopher L. Cunningham and his research team. His laboratory employs conditioning paradigms to explore genetic factors, brain systems, neurotransmitters and information processing mechanisms that drive alcohol seeking behavior and alcohol dependence. Our research questions extended from earlier studies that implicated endogenous opiate systems in alcohol’s neuropharmacological effects. For example, the opiate receptor antagonist Naloxone, when administered prior to test, reduced expression of previously learned alcohol-induced conditioned place preferences (CPP) and facilitated extinction of CPP. Naloxone’s capacity to augment reduction of alcohol-seeking behavior in DBA/2J mice may yield important translational research applications to curb alcohol-seeking behavior in humans.

An equally important problem related to opiate systems is the potential impact of opiate agonists on expression and extinction of alcohol-induced CPP. Opiate use and abuse is a significant public health problem impacting individuals and society. Potentially, opiate agonists may interact with other drug use, like alcohol, in unique ways, and alcohol-induced place conditioning affords an opportunity to experimentally evaluate that question. More specifically, will morphine, an opiate agonist, alter either expression or extinction of alcohol-induced CPP? Preliminary outcomes suggest that opiate agonists may enhance expression of ethanol-induced CPP as well as slow extinction of CPP. Further, at least in DBA/2J mice, opiate enhancement of ethanol CPP may be mediated by the activity-suppressing impact of morphine. Importantly, these projects may contribute to findings that will be applied to human drug addiction and add to our understanding of opiate use risk factors that may contribute to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.


This research was conducted both as part of a sabbatical leave and as part of a Linfield College Faculty Development Grant in 2018, funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

  Contact Author