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McLean researcher

S. Barak Caine: Neuroscience and Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory

Many psychiatric disorders currently have limited treatment options. Our scientists investigate the effectiveness of potential medications for conditions including schizophrenia, cocaine and amphetamine dependence, and alcohol use disorder.

We screen new medications in rodents for abuse potential and other effects. For example, drugs that are habit forming in rodents are likely to be addictive in humans. Our findings have showed that the addictive effects of cocaine and amphetamines are related to the dopamine system in the brain. Understanding these physiological mechanisms is critical to developing effective treatments and predicting and minimizing their side effects.

Evidence suggests that acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, is involved in the abuse-related effects of cocaine and other psychostimulants, and also the symptoms of schizophrenia. This research is suggesting promising treatment targets for cocaine abuse, psychotic disorders, Parkinson’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and disorders leading to cognitive deficits.

The Neuroscience and Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory was founded in 1997.