A Visual Cue Model of Cocaine Reward

Grants and Contracts Details


Candidate: Chana K. Akins, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky. She has served in a tenure-track faculty position for 5 years, during which time she has had 10 publications, and has been awarded two small NSF Minority Planning grants and an NIH Minority Investigator Supplement. Her primary focus has involved studying learning in the sexual behavior system. Her immediate goals are to shift her research focus from animal learning to psychopharmacology and behavioral neuroscience. She would like to improve her knowledge base and acquire mentored-training and experience in these areas to enable her to accomplish her long term goals of developing an independent high-quality research program in psychopharmacology and neuroscience, and of securing independent extramural funding. This application will help her to accomplish those goals. Research: Distal cues that elicit approach to drugs are often visual cues. In humans, these visual cues can elicit the cocaine-related conditioned responses that induce craving. To date, there is no animal model of cocaine reward that is used to focus specifically on the role of visual cues in drug-seeking behavior. Although rodent models have been widely used to study drug reward, because of the limited visual capacity of this species, they may not serve as adequate subjects for examining the relationship between visual cues and drug reward. In addition, although primates have a well-developed visual capacity, they do not lend themselves well to invasive neurochemical and neurobiological techniques. Therefore, this application proposes to use an avian species to conduct behavioral studies to assess the role of visual cues on drug reward, psychopharmacological studies to assess the role of dopamine in cocaine reward, neurochemical studies to localize dopamine systems in the avian brain. Environment: The candidate's sponsoring institution, the University of Kentucky, provides laboratory equipment, space, and access to faculty and staff in order for Dr. Akins to successfully accomplish the goals of the application. In addition, the University of Kentucky Medical Center provides a large number of members of the Society for Neuroscience and consists of a local NIDA (Neuroscientists Interested in Drug Abuse) group. In addition, Dr. Akins will benefit from courses in pharmacology and neuroscience that the University offers. The department and sponsoring institution are committed and fully supportive of releasing Dr. Akins from other duties so that she can devote the required percentage of time for the development of a research career.
Effective start/end date7/1/015/31/06


  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: $446,630.00


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