Professor and Chair, Department of Pharmacology
Irwin Lucki, Ph.D.
Irwin Lucki, Ph.D.
Scientific Council Member (Joined 2007)
2004 Distinguished Investigator Grant
The research interests of the laboratory have focused on defining the role of specific neurotransmitters in the behavioral effects of drugs used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Animal models for depression and anxiety are used to evaluate the potential efficacy of different neurotransmitter and peptide receptors for clinical therapeutic effects, to identify brain regions associated with behavioral responses to drugs, and to construct and evaluate pharmacological models for improving the efficacy of psychiatric medications. The participation of genetic and pharmacological modifications of neural circuits in depression, anxiety and neuroendocrine regulation associated with behavioral stress has specifically been investigated. Microdialysis procedures are used to measure the release of neurotransmitters in discrete regions of awake freely-moving rats or mice. These studies provide information on the regulation of the release of neurotransmitters in different brain regions, determine environmental and behavioral conditions that alter the release of neurotransmitters, and measure the effects of drugs during behavioral performance. Finally, studies of different inbred mouse strains or knockout mice are used to examine genetic factors associated with complex behaviors and for identifying mechanisms underlying the behavioral effects of psychotherapeutic medications.
Most recently, our research program has focused on establishing neural mechanisms through animal behavior models for the clinical use of rapid-acting antidepressants for treatment-resistant forms of depression and anxiety. Studies have focused on glutamatergic compounds, such as ketamine, and diverse opioid compounds, such as buprenorphine, nalmefene and selective kappa opioid receptor antagonists. Behavioral studies have shown long-lasting antidepressant-like effects for these compounds under conditions where established antidepressants are ineffective. Pharmacological studies are examining the mechanisms underlying the unusually long duration of their behavioral effects.
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