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RIA collaborates on multi-university Center of Excellence study on the genetics of drug addiction

By Cathy Wilde

Release Date: October 22, 2014

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Scientists at the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) are taking part in a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Center of Excellence study on the genetics of drug abuse.

The study is funded by a $12 million grant to Abraham Palmer, PhD, associate professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago, to establish the NIDA Center for Genome-Wide Association Studies in Outbred Rats. The center will combine complex behavioral studies with recent technological advances in rat genetics to help scientists shed light on the genes behind drug addiction.

Research groups from the University at Buffalo, University of Michigan, University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Medical College of Wisconsin will work in collaboration with the NIDA Center of Excellence on specific genetic research projects.

Jerry Richards, PhD, research scientist at RIA, will lead UB’s participation in collaboration with Joseph Lucke, PhD, senior research scientist at RIA, and Paul Meyer, PhD, assistant professor in UB’s Department of Psychology.

Richards’ group will explore the link between addiction and various behaviors, such as response to novelty, sustained attention and reaction time. It also will look at preference for a large, delayed reward compared to smaller immediate rewards, and why some animals strongly react to cues that have been associated with cocaine. How these behaviors are related to each other and drug abuse will be investigated, as well as their genetic underpinnings.

Kenneth Leonard, PhD, director of RIA, and Stephen Tiffany, PhD, Empire Innovation Professor and chair of UB’s Department of Psychology, will serve on the advisory board for the NIDA Center of Excellence.

Other scientists across the country who will participate in the center include Terry Robinson, PhD, Elliott S. Valenstein Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, University at Michigan; Shelly Flagel, PhD, research assistant professor of psychiatry, Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute, University of Michigan; Hao Chen, assistant professor of pharmacology, Health Science Center, University of Tennessee; and Leah Solberg Woods, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, Human and Molecular Genetics Center, Medical College of Wisconsin. Their projects will study subjects including the genetic basis for differences in reward-seeking behavior and the genetic influence of nicotine self-administration in rats.

For more information on the NIDA Center for Genome-Wide Association Studies in Outbred Rats, visit http://ratgenes.org/.

RIA is a research center of the University at Buffalo and a national leader in the study of alcohol and substance abuse issues. RIA’s research programs, most of which have multiple-year funding, are supported by federal, state and private foundation grants. Located on UB’s Downtown Campus, RIA is a member of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and a key contributor to UB’s reputation for research excellence. To learn more, visit buffalo.edu/ria

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