Faculty Research Interests
Gary Aston-Jones Dr. Aston-Jones’s research focuses on the neural mechanisms of reward-motivated behavior, and examines the roles of ascending brain monoamine and peptide systems in addiction and cognitive processes.  His studies use neurophysiology, neuroanatomy and behavioral neuropharmacology techniques to determine the roles of specific neural circuits in normal and aberrant behavior. He also uses optogenetics, DREADD synthetic designer receptors, and behavioral economics methods to advance the study of these systems in behavior.
R. Christopher Pierce The major hurdle for abstaining from abuse of cocaine is intense drug craving, which can be triggered months and even years following the cessation of drug use. The most widely accepted model of craving in animals involves self-administration followed by extinction and the subsequent reinstatement of drug seeking. Using this animal model, Dr. Pierce’s research team pursues a strategy to identify novel neurobiological adaptations produced by cocaine and then uses this information to formulate potential cocaine addiction therapies.
Ying-Xian Pan Dr. Pan studies the mechanisms of opioid actions, providing the foundation of developing novel drugs for pain treatment. The mu opioid receptors mediate the actions of morphine and most clinical analgesics, as well as drugs of abuse such as heroin. The goal of our research is to understand the mechanisms and functions of mu opioid receptor gene, OPRM1, gain insights into the pharmacological and physiological significance of the mechanisms and functions, and provide potential targets for developing novel drugs in control of pain and drug of abuse.
Daniel Langleben Dr. Langleben is an addiction psychiatrist with extensive experience in translational research in addiction psychiatry and public health, using functional brain imaging to study treatment effects on cognition, attention, motivation and behavioral control in oral and intravenous opioid dependence as well as tobacco and HIV-risk behaviors.
Morgan James The focus of Dr. James lab is to characterize the brain systems, in particular the orexin system, involved in psychiatric disorders associated with aberrant reward behavior, including addiction and eating disorders. My research program is highly translationally focused, with a specific emphasis on carrying out discovery research that can directly guide and inform clinical outcomes.
David Barker Dr. Barker’s lab applies cutting edge technologies to interrogate neural circuits involved in psychiatric disorders. Our goal is to better understand the maladaptive processes that affect the brains of individuals afflicted with drug addiction and comorbid mental disorders with the hope of advancing more effective treatment strategies. The lab applies anatomical techniques to define the types of neurons that comprise specific brain pathways, calcium imaging and electrophysiological techniques to record the types of information encoded by these circuits, and optogenetic or chemogenetic technologies to manipulate circuit-level activity.
Anna Konova The Addiction & Decision Neuroscience Laboratory directed by Dr. Konova, studies motivational states, decision making, and addiction.The lab’s main research areas of interest are decision neuroscience and computational psychiatry. Her lab’s work combines functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), computational modeling, and patient populations.
Mark Rossi Dr. Rossi’s multifaceted research program is aimed at uncovering the neural basis of adaptive and maladaptive feeding behavior using a suite of contemporary in vivo circuit dissection approaches including longitudinal deep brain two-photon calcium imaging. His lab studies how hypothalamic circuits are modified by maladaptive behavioral states and how interactions between hypothalamic and basal ganglia nuclei may shape behavioral adaptations during obesity.
Arthur Tomie Dr. Tomie’s research focuses primarily on Pavlovian conditioning of directed action (autoshaping or Sign-Tracking) and its relationship to alcohol abuse. His lab studies the role of objects as signals for reward in the induction of symptoms of drug abuse in rats.
Cristine Delnevo Dr. Delnevo’s work is focused on e-cigarettes communications, tobacco use patterns among young adults and tobacco 21 laws. She is also one of the PI’s of the UPenn/Rutgers Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS) grant which examines the effects of advertising, packaging and labeling on perceptions, use and exposure of combustible tobacco products.
Denise Hien Dr. Hien is recognized as a leader in the field of post-traumatic stress and addictions. Her body of work has contributed to the evidence base on effective interventions for individuals with PTSD and substance use disorders. She and her group have conducted programmatic research through single- and multi-site clinical trials across the United States in community-based substance abuse treatment settings.
Dipak Sarkar Dr. Sarkar’s current research focuses on understanding how fetal alcohol exposures alter neuroimmune communications in the hypothalamus via extravesicular and epigenetic mechanisms to induce stress hyper-response, behavioral abnormalities, metabolic dysfunctions, immune incompetence and cancer.
Elizabeth Tricomi Dr. Tricomi’s research focuses on the influences of affective information on cognitive processing in the brain. The affective qualities of our experience not only produce subjective feelings that may be positive or negative, but also provide information that allows us to shape future behavior. To understand how the consequences of one’s decisions can be used to determine future actions, her lab uses fMRI to investigate the role of the brain’s reward processing system in feedback-based learning. Her work examines contextual influences on learning and decision making, and the neural systems that underlie these processes.
Erin Zerbo Dr. Zerbo is an addiction psychiatrist who manages a large buprenorphine practice dedicated to underserved Newark residents. She is also the director of the state-designated Northern New Jersey Center of Excellence in Medication-Assisted Treatment, a new statewide training and education initiative.Her primary interest is the treatment of substance use disorders in populations with significant deficits in their social determinants of health.
Jennifer Buckman Dr. Buckman’s lab is interested in characterizing physiological indicators of adaptability, examining how automatic physiological processes support substance use behavior and interfere with conscious efforts to change behavior. Her lab explores the link between neural processing and cardiovascular dynamics and how this link is disrupted by alcohol and other drug use behaviors. In addition, her lab studies the relationship of chronic drinking and cognitive impairments, deconstructing the role of social support on substance use behaviors and integrating genetic data to understand drinking behavior and change behavior.
Jiang Ye Dr. Ye’s lab is engaged in research in mechanisms of alcohol addiction and of general anesthetics. His lab’s work on alcohol addiction focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which ethanol increases the excitability of dopaminergic neurons; in particular, the role of the GABAergic and glutamatergic inputs to the dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area, a brain region which mediates the rewarding effects of abused drugs including alcohol. His lab’s work on general anesthetics focuses on the ventral lateral preoptic area.
Jill Williams Dr. Williams is an addiction psychiatrists whose work addresses tobacco use in individuals with mental illness or other addictions through treatment and systems interventions.
John Pintar The Pintar laboratory has used mammalian molecular genetic approaches to produce 16 lines of mice containing null alleles for genes involved in growth as well as nervous system development and function. Current work involves both the study of these mutant strains using multiple analytic levels as well as producing conditional knock-outs for several genes. Perhaps most notably, the lab has produced knock-outs of the entire opioid system and is now studying the consequences of these mutations on pain perception and anxiety as well as on drug-induced tolerance and dependence.
Kevin Beck The Beck lab is focused on delineating biopsychological factors that increase the risk for developing conditions such as Gulf War Illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders, and depression. Discovering the unique neural and psychological pathways that confer risk for these disorders will provide critical knowledge for creating more efficient, individualized treatments for these conditions. A similar philosophy is employed for identifying sex differences in these psychophysiological disorders and conducting research to determine whether sex-specific interventions can be developed for these conditions.
Lei Yu Dr. Yu’s lab is interested in the molecular and genetic basis of complex brain disorders, including genetic vulnerability to alcoholism and drug abuse, and molecular mechanisms underlying neuro-sensory processes such as stress, neuropathic pain, and analgesia.  The goal is to better understand the biological underpinnings of these behaviors, and inform coping strategies and medical interventions.
Marc Steinberg Dr. Steinberg’s research focuses on tobacco use and dependence, including tobacco dependence treatment development, tobacco use in smokers with psychiatric comorbidity, the relationship between smoking and task persistence/distress tolerance, and motivational interviewing as an approach to encourage smokers to make a quit attempt. More recently, Dr. Steinberg has begun examining tobacco use and psychiatric comorbidity in patients using cannabis for therapeutic purposes.
Mark West Dr. West stuides behavioral correlations of dopamine, which are as fascinating and as compelling as any in behavioral neuroscience. It appears that nature selected for the mesolimbic dopamine system, which is strategically connected to emotional and mnemonic structures and to premotor areas, enabling conditioned stimuli to guide goal-directed, instrumental behavior. Addictive drugs, which stimulate dopamine transmission, are hypothesized to produce neuroadaptations in this system which enable drug-associated stimuli to produce craving and relapse to drug seeking behavior. Dr. West’s lab discovered that neurons in the mesolimbic system of rats acquire persistent responsiveness to cocaine-associated cues and express these responses during relapse to cocaine seeking. The long-term goals are to further reveal neural mechanisms of relapse, both 1) in order to develop medications for treating cocaine addiction and 2) in order to identify possible genetic differences between cue-responsive versus cue-unresponsive subjects.
Marsha Bates Dr. Bates transdisciplinary research program seeks to build novel intervention and prevention approaches to alcohol and drug related problems based on neurocognitive and neurocardiac mechanisms of behavior change. Her multi-institution research program is a component of the NIAAA Mechanism of Behavior Change Interdisciplinary Research Consortium (MIRC) which seeks to build novel approaches to alcohol-related problems via mechanism-based strategies.
Matthew Lee Dr. Lee is a lifespan-developmental addictions researcher at the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies. Much of his research to date has investigated “maturing out” of problem drinking during young adulthood. However, through a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence grant awarded by NIAAA, Dr. Lee’s research has expanded to investigate problem-drinking recovery across the entire adult lifespan.
Michael  B. Steinberg Dr. Steinberg is Professor and Chief in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Vice-Chair for Research at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and Medical Director of the Rutgers Tobacco Dependence Program/Center for Tobacco Studies.  He maintains an active research career in the areas of tobacco treatment interventions, has published over 75 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and has conducted studies funded by NCI, NIDA, RWJ Foundation, and the NJ Department of Health.  His ongoing efforts include an NCI-funded R01 study evaluating physicians’ attitudes and communication regarding E-cigarettes (PACE), coordination and training for the 10 New Jersey tobacco Quitcenters, and assisting with the SCREEN NJ Lung Screening initiative.
Nina Cooperman Dr. Cooperman’s research has focused on developing and evaluating novel interventions for substance use and other health behaviors. Her earlier work included addressing medication adherence among people with HIV and developing tailored tobacco dependence treatment for individuals in methadone treatment for an opioid use disorder. Her current research focuses on evaluating mindfulness for opioid relapse prevention and chronic pain management among people in methadone treatment and peer recovery support for opioid overdose survivors in the emergency department.
Petros Levounis Dr. Levounis is an addiction psychiatrist with a broad interest in various addictive and substance use disorders.Dr. Levounis has published thirteen books including the self-help paperback “Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister—and Not Lose Yourself,” the textbook of “Substance Dependence and Co-Occurring Psychiatric Disorders,” “Motivational Interviewing for Clinical Practice,” “The Behavioral Addictions,” “Becoming Mindful,” “Pocket Guide to LGBTQ Mental Health,” and “Office-Based Buprenorphine Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder,” now in its second edition. Dr. Levounis is currently working on the first textbook of Technological Addictions.
Suchismita Ray Dr. Ray’s lab studies the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying addictive behaviors by utilizing cognitive tasks, functional magnetic resonance imaging and computational tools. Her lab has investigated brain connectivity and memory in chronic cocaine users and is currently investigating brain changes in prescription opioid dependent individuals. Dr. Ray’s research activities are geared toward improving the precision of interventions for individuals with opioid and other drug use disorders.
Travis Baker The overarching goal of Dr. Baker’s research program is to understand the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie cognitive control and memory, how to empirically identify and characterize these functions in the brain, and how these functions are disrupted in clinical populations (e.g. addictions, ADHD, affective disorders, neurodegenerative disorders). He has adopted a variety of empirical approaches to investigate these functions, including genetics, electroencephalography, event-related brain potentials, functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion magnetic resonance imaging, and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
Vince McGinty The McGinty lab asks how the brain represents value, and how these value representations guide actions and decisions. The ultimate goal is to understand the neural basis of everyday decision-making and motivated behavior. The lab’s core technique is behavioral electrophysiology. We measure single neuron activity in the frontal lobe, limbic system, and basal ganglia, in animals engaged in decision-making and other value-based tasks. These experiments also incorporate array recording, microstimulation, pharmacological, and computational techniques. With these techniques, we aim to understand how value is encoded across a number of brain regions, and, critically, how the functional circuitry connecting these regions enables the brain to construct a value code from sensory stimuli.
Yihong Zhao Dr. Zhao’s research focuses on developing and applying statistical and machine learning methods to dissect the relationships between genetic factors, neurophenotypes, and psychiatric behaviors.