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The Nichols Lab

Research:

The research in my laboratory focuses on the neurotransmitter serotonin, and the molecular mechanisms underlying its behavioral and physiological effects, with an emphasis on the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor.

Serotonin (5-HT) in the brain modulates many complex behaviors including mood, cognition, appetite, sleep, aggression, memory, and sex. Serotonin in the periphery regulates many physiological processes including blood pressure, inflammation, cell division, and gut function.

Some of the most powerful tools to investigate the functional role of serotonin receptors, especially the 5-HT2A receptor, are the classical hallucinogenic drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) that are powerful agonists at these receptors. Investigation of the mechanism of action of this class of drug both on behaviors and physiological processes will provide critical insight into normal biological processes like cognition and abnormal processes including schizophrenia and inflammation.

There are two main areas of research ongoing in my laboratory:

1. Elucidation of the mechanism of action of LSD in the mammalian brain to alter behaviors.

  • We are currently investigating how chronic repeated LSD administration alters brain neurochemistry and genetics towards developing of a novel model of psychosis. For this work we are combining both traditional rodent models with the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.

                                        i.    Discovery experiments in rodents

                                        ii.    Translational studies in Drosophila

2. Examination of the role of the 5-HT2A receptor in the peripheral processes with a focus on inflammation.