School of Medicine

Alcohol & Drug Abuse Center of Excellence

Lucas Albrechet-Souza, PhD


Research focuses on investigating brain and behavior changes induced by traumatic stress in rodents. Emphasis is on the involvement of CRF and endocannabinoids in discrete brain areas on stress-induced dysregulated behavior, including anxiety, avoidance and escalation of alcohol consumption.

Angela Amedee, PhD


Research  focuses on the viral factors that facilitate HIV transmission, disease progression, and maintenance of viral reservoirs. Studies investigate mother-to-infant transmission of HIV, and in addition, how chronic alcohol use impacts HIV replication, antiviral efficacy, and disease progression.   

Elizabeth Avegno, PhD


Research focuses on acute and chronic alcohol effects on reward and stress circuitry in the rodent brain. Previous research has focused on the effects of adolescent alcohol exposure on the sensitivity of midbrain dopamine neurons to ethanol. Ongoing studies investigate neural adaptations following both adolescent and adult alcohol exposure in mesoamygdalar neurons.

Wayne L. Backes, PhD 


Research focuses on how cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) is organized in the endoplasmic reticulum, and how CYP2E1 interacts with other P450s enzymes and other protein partners that are necessary for CYP2E1 function.  Such interactions can affect the efficiency of the body to remove ethanol, and could potentially contribute to addiction, particularly after chronic administration.  

Carmen C. Canavier, PhD 

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Research focuses on the intrinsic and synaptic determinants of the firing pattern of different subpopulations of midbrain dopamine neurons, using computational models in a synergistic loop with electrophysiology. This research will lead to a better understanding of the role of distinct subpopulations of dopamine neurons in the basal ganglia circuits that are implicated in addiction.

Erich J Conrad MD, FAPM


Research focuses on substance use disorders, especially as they contribute to or develop from psychiatric sequelae in traumatically injured patients.

Scott Edwards, PhD 


Research focuses on the investigation of neurobiological changes associated with altered motivational systems in the context of substance use disorders (SUDs).  Our strategy is to first determine alterations in neuronal signaling following excessive drug or alcohol use, and then to investigate which neuroadaptations are most critically involved in the establishment and maintenance of SUDs.  Our most recent focus is on the intersection of SUDs and chronic pain conditions in close collaboration with distinguished LSU Health and national investigators.

Tekeda Ferguson, MPH, MSPH, CHES, PhD

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Research  focuses on a multilevel approach to account for and better understand the complex synergistic social determinants that impact alcohol use and chronic comorbidities. Dr. Ferguson has expertise in chronic disease epidemiology and her team focuses on taking a biopsychosocial approach to understanding the social environment as well as traditional pathophysiologic measures on the influence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer. 

Jason D. Gardner, PhD 


Research focuses on alcoholic cardiomyopathy in adults and cardiac dysfunction following in utero alcohol exposure, and the effects of inhaled nicotine and vaping on cardiac and vascular function.   

Sonia Gasparini, PhD 


Research focuses on information processing and memory formation; in particular, how dendritic voltage-dependent channel activity and modulation transform incoming signals in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex.

Nicholas Gilpin, PhD 


Research focuses on the neurobiology of addiction to alcohol and drugs (nicotine, THC, opioids), traumatic stress, pain, and traumatic brain injury.

Michael Hagensee,


Dr. Hagensee's lab is looking at the role of alcohol addiction in rate of human papillomavirus infection in HIV+ men and women.  He is also examining the role of alcohol in the development of cervical and anal dysplasia in HIV+ individuals.

Rajani Maiya, PhD


Research focuses on understanding how experience-dependent changes in gene expression are mobilized into neuroadaptive changes that underlie the development of alcohol addiction. The Maiya lab has two main research projects: 1) Investigating the role of the transcription co-factor Lim-Only 4(LMO4) in alcohol consumption and reward, and 2) Investigating the molecular mechanisms that underlie social defeat stress-induced escalation of alcohol consumption. The lab uses cutting-edge molecular genetic tools including whole genome sequencing and targeted recombination in activated populations (TRAP) to address these questions. 

Jason Middleton, PhD


Research focuses on the properties and function of neurons and synaptic connections in brain areas involved in sensory perception, stress response and pain modulation including neocortex, amygdala, periaqueductal gray (PAG) and lateral hypothalamus. Using electrophysiological recording techniques and advanced computational analysis, our goal is to characterize how neural circuits in these regions of interest function under normal physiological conditions and how their structure and function changes under conditions of external stressors, chronic substance exposure, chronic pain and/or traumatic brain injury. 

Patricia Molina, MD, PhD


Research focuses on the impact of alcohol and drug abuse on the behavioral, metabolic and immune consequences of SIV/HIV infection and traumatic brain injury.

Charles D. Nichols, PhD 


Research focuses on the pharmacology of GPCRs and serotonin receptor pharmacology in mammalian and invertebrate models. This includes the study of the role of serotonin in psychiatric disorders including depression and substance use disorders, and the study of psychedelic drugs towards understanding their mechanism of action in the brain, and as anti-inflammatories. 

Amanda Pahng, PhD


Research focues on understanding the neurobiological and behavioral interactions of pain and drug abuse liability. Specifically, investigating how altered signaling in reward- and pain-related circuitry contributes to excessive drug intake and hyperalgesia (heightened pain sensitivity) in the development of disease states, namely drug addiction and chronic pain. 

Dennis Paul, PhD 


Research focuses on pain modulation and the opioid receptor pharmacology including investigation of analgesic drugs that will not cause relapse or addiction.

Kim Pederson, PhD


Research focues on liver cancer, diabetes, effect of alcohol on bone and metabolic syndrome.

Stefany Primeaux, PhD 


Research focuses on the interaction of alcohol use disorders and feeding behaviors and their impact on metabolic regulation in persons living with HIV.

Martin Ronis, PhD


Research focuses on alcoholic liver disease, alcohol effects on bone turnover and the hepatic and skeletal co-morbidities associated with alcohol use disorder in patients living with HIV.

Michael Salling, PhD


Research focuses on understanding the neuronal networks disrupted in psychiatric illnesses with a focus on alcohol use disorders. The goal of his studies is to identify neuroadaptations that occur as the result of stress, drug exposure, viral infection, or pathological brain development and how they play a role in cognition and excessive alcohol consumption.

Judd E. Shellito, MD 


Research focuses on host defense mechanisms against pulmonary infection, AIDS and alcohol consumption, occupational/environmental medicine, silicosis, asbestosis, malignant mesothelioma, inhalation lung injury, and occupational asthma

Robert W. Siggins II, PhD


Research focuses on the impact of harmful alcohol use on immune system ‘aging'.

Liz Simon, DVM, PhD


Research focuses on the metabolic comorbid conditions associated with chronic alcohol consumption or administration in the SIV/HIV infected host. Specifically, studies focus on epigenetic mechanisms underlying impaired cell differentiation and renewal.  

Alison Smith, MD, PhD

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Research focues on stem cells, inflammation, wound healing, hemorrhagic shock and resuscituation.

Flavia Souza-Smith, PhD


Research focuses on the physiology and pathophysiology of digestive lymphatic function and permeability, lymphatic-perilymphatic adipose tissue immune crosstalk and metabolic consequences, and immunometabolism in adipose tissue.

Christopher Taylor, PhD


Research focuses on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, specifically related to applications of high throughput sequencing. This research is highly collaborative in nature involving the development of algorithms for analysis and visualization of sequencing data. The human microbiome is a specific application of interest and my lab has been involved with studies of the vaginal, gut, oral, and lung microbiomes.

Kurt J. Varner, PhD 


Research focuses on the role of oxidative stress in cardiovascular injury resulting from drugs of abuse.  

David A. Welsh, MD


Research focuses on the impact of alcohol use on resident microbial communities (the microbiota) and immunology on health outcomes, especially lung diseases, aging, and HIV.

Tiffany Wills, PhD


Research focuses on understanding sex differences in the neuroadaptations that occur in alcohol dependence, particularly those produced by adolescent alcohol use. Studies utilize a wide range of techniques that include electrophysiology, proteomics, and behavioral analysis using a rodent model of alcohol dependence.

Peter Winsauer, PhD 


Research focuses on the behavioral effects of alcohol, cannabinoids, and other drugs of abuse on behavior, and uses operant conditioning techniques to study those effects.

Arnold Zea, PhD


Research focuses on the immune biology of cancer and tuberculosis, studying the mechanisms by which L-arginine and L-glutamine metabolism regulates tumor growth-inhibition and immune responses..