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Alexis C. Thompson, PhD

Alexis C. Thompson, PhD

Senior Research Scientist

Behavioral Neuroscience

Research Associate Professor, Psychology

Contact Information

1021 Main Street
Buffalo, NY  14203-1016
Office Phone: (716) 887-2243
Lab Phone: (716) 887-2226

Primary Research Areas

Experience-induced or drug-induced neural adaptations associated with increased vulnerability to, or expression of, drug addiction, anxiety, and maternal behavior; mesolimbic cortical pathway function; neuropeptide regulation of monoamines; behavioral regulation of pain and analgesia.

Peripheral Biomarkers of Cocaine Dependence and Relapse

Thompson | Straubinger | Qu
This project developed analytic methods to conduct large-scale analyses of brain peptides to (a) better understand how cocaine abuse changes brain activity and (b) identify changes of relapse vulnerability.

In this project, Dr. Thompson and colleagues studied the protein composition of plasma and brain tissue samples from animal models of cocaine dependence, withdrawal, and stress-induced relapse. Their goal was to identify biomarkers of cocaine history and/or vulnerability to stress-induced reinstatement of cocaine-induced behavior. Dr. Thompson’s colleagues for this Multiple Principal Investigator award include Drs. Robert Straubinger and Dr. Jun Qu, both of UB’s School of Pharmacy. Funded by a grant of $183,280 from NIDA, 2009-2012.

Effects of Negative Consequences on Drug Self Administration in Rats

The primary objective of this research was to develop a rodent model of self administration (SA) in which drug consumption has delayed negative consequences. SA procedures in which the animals make responses that are reinforced by IV drug injections are widely used and are perhaps the most convincing non-human animal models of drug abuse. Non-human animal SA models, however, may not model important aspects of human drug SA. In humans, impulsivity is considered an important component of drug abuse because individuals take drugs despite the knowledge of negative (often delayed) outcome associated with drug use. In contrast, standard laboratory animal models of SA have no explicit negative outcomes associated with the SA of the drug. Because there are currently no SA models that incorporate negative consequences, the impact of negative outcomes is not generally incorporated into current ideas about the underlying behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms mediating drug abuse. This study will advance our understanding of drug abuse by determining if punishment or delays to punishment have similar (or dissimilar) effects on drug and natural reinforcers of equivalent reinforcing efficacy. The results will help to determine if a “punished” SA model is a valuable tool with which to investigate the behavioral and cognitive regulation of drug abuse by negative consequences. Funded by a grant of $431,356 from NIDA. This project is supported through funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), 2009-2011.

Evaluation of Neuropeptide Y as a Target for Cocaine Dependence Treatment

Thompson | DiPirro
This research tested the hypothesis that increasing the levels of neuropeptide Y (a peptide neuromodulator) in the brain will reduce anxiety and craving for cocaine.

Cocaine use and dependence exact a toll on the individual user and the community at large because cocaine-driven behavior is associated with a wide range of economic, biomedical, and social problems (e.g., crime, spread of disease, and neonatal drug exposure). Currently there are no recommended drug therapies for cocaine dependence. This research tested the hypothesis that enhancing neuropeptide Y (NPY, a neurotransmitter) activity in the central nervous system will reduce heightened anxiety and cocaine-craving associated with short and long periods of abstinence from cocaine in an animal model of cocaine dependence. In particular, the ability of NPY agonists to reduce cue- and stress-induced cocaine seeking will be examined. The results will add to our understanding of the neurobiological substrates that underlie cocaine dependence and determine if the pursuit of medicinal compounds to enhance the activity of NPY in the brain in the treatment of cocaine dependence is warranted. Dr. Alexis Thompson’s co-investigator on the study was Dr. Jean DiPirro of Buffalo State College. Funded by a grant of $1,582,306 from NIDA, 2006-2012.

CNS Opioids and Maternal Behavior

Kristal | Thompson

Dr. Mark Kristal, of UB’s Department of Psychology, investigated opioid activation at the end of pregnancy and during delivery and its complex effect on maternal behavior. He and Dr. Alexis Thompson, RIA, focused their work on the development of a comprehensive model of the biobehavioral/neurochemical basis of maternal behavior, including the role of opioids in areas of the brain that mediate motivational processes delivery. Initial results strongly support the hypothesis that at delivery, endogenous opioids in the mesolimbic cortical pathway of the brain facilitate the inititation of maternal behavior. In addition, peri-parturitional behaviors, including placentophagia in animals, facilitate activation of opioid neurotransmission in this part of the brain. Funded by NSF to Dr. Kristal, UB Department of Psychology, subaccount to Dr. Thompson, RIA, 2005-2008.

Neurochemical mechanisms mediating the hallucinogenic effects of LSD and other serotonergic hallucinogens (in collaboration with PI Jerrold Winter, PhD and Richard Rabin, PhD, both of UB’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology).

Efficacy of buprenorphine in the treatment of post-operative pain in the rat (in collaboration with Lisa Martin, PhD, UB Department of Comparative Medicine, Mark Kristal, PhD, UB Department of Psychology, and Jean DiPirro, PhD, Buffalo State College).