Student working on a research project.

Research Assistant Development & Behavior

1. Effects of Chronic Methylphenidate Use on Development and Behavior

This study examines the effects of chronic Methylphenidate consumption in rats using a novel dosing method that produces a pharmacokinetic profile that mimics clinical use in children. Methylphenidate (MP), also known as Ritalin, has been prescribed over the years for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is widely known for its abuse among college students and varied side effects during and after cessation of drug usage. This study examines the immediate and long-term effects of MP treatment through long-term treatment as well as following abstinence.

Previous studies completed by our lab have used a dual bottle paradigm to produce an oral route of administration that mirrors that of clinical use. We analyze the differences in a large battery of behavior tests as well as neurochemical and neurophysiological measurements. Finally the effects of chronic MP are examined on development using several sophisticated and cutting edge imaging techniques such as autoradiography, microCT, microMRI and microPET. Check out our website at for information on how to apply.

2. Obesity and Bariatric Surgery Effects on Reward Signaling and Alcohol Abuse
Obesity is an epidemic, with more than 64% of Americans considered overweight or obese, and has been linked with addictive behaviors. Furthermore, the most common treatment for obesity, gastric bypass, and specifically the most common form of gastric bypass known as Roux-en-Y (RYGB), has been shown time and again to have a significant effect on substance abuse with special regard given to alcohol. Our lab has shown that obesity is associated with the same neurological correlates (ie, decreased dopamine D2 receptors) seen in reward deficiency syndrome, which is strongly correlated with drug abuse suggesting an overlap in between the two in some aspects of mechanism, cause and treatments. Likewise, RYGB has been shown to increase ethanol intake in some subjects and have a direct effect on brain function and reward signaling. Those interested in this area will gain experience in exciting aspects of animal research, including:
• In vivo and in vitro brain imaging, utilizing techniques such as PET imaging and autoradiography
• Behavioral testing paradigms
• Surgical techniques
• Histology and Neuroanatomy
Check out our website at for information on how to apply.

3. Cannabinoids, Endocannabinoids and Fatty Acid Binding Proteins

For the last two and a half years we have been studying how manipulation of endocannabinoid (ECB) transport pathways affects propensity for addictive behavior. Research on the endogenous lipid ligands that bind to the same receptor as THC in the central nervous system (CNS) has surged in the last two decades since the cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptor was cloned. It is now being recognized that the ECB system is heavily involved in a wide range of functions and is a promising target for therapeutic manipulation for many health problems. Research thus far has focused on the enzymes that degrade two of the best characterized ECBs—anandamide and 2-AG. Along with our collaborators we have taken a novel approach to focus more specifically on the proteins that transport the ECB anandamide along its enzymatic pathway to where it is broken down, these are fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs), and that particular subtypes of FABPs are highly expressed in the central nervous system. Numerous ongoing studies are looking at these specific ECB proteins and how they are involved in understanding the effect of cannabinoids on the brain and behavior, as well potential therapeutic mechanisms for disease. Check out our website at for information on how to apply.

Research Project Information

Disciplines: Psychology
Student Skill-Set Needed: No experience necessary. Schedule of availability to get training and be in the lab is very important. 15+ hours per week is typical.
Compensation: Academic Credit, Volunteer, Work Study
Available: Fall, Spring, Summer


For further information on this opportunity, or to apply, contact:

Faculty Member: Peter Thanos Ph.D.
Title: Adjunct
Department: Research Institute On Addictions (RIA)
Office: Research Institute On Addictions; 1021 Main Street; Buffalo
Phone: 716-881-7520