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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
  • Briana J. Hempel

  • 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 traditional psychostimulants and synthetic cathinones.

About Hayley

Katie and her team of undergraduate research assistants

Katharine H. Nelson

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

About Katie

Harmain Rafi

Harmain Rafi

My current project entails using a novel multichannel electrode with FSCV to detect neurotransmitters artificially and soon in tissue.

About Harmain

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

Shihui Huang

Shihui Huang

I have grown increasingly dedicated to expanding my abilities into the field of medical research and public health over the course of my undergraduate career.

About Shihui

Genna Gottleib

Genevieve Gottlieb

Genevieve Gottlieb plans on attending graduate school to earn a PhD, either in Clinical Psychology or Forensic Psychology.

About Genevieve

Sara Bowman

Sara Bowman

Sara Bowman's research interests lie in clinical psychology.

About Sara

Robby Jones

Robby Jones

Robby’s research interests include animal models of drug abuse, drug interactions, behavioral toxicology, chronic drug administration, and incentive motivation.

About Robby