Nick Dipatrizio in front of the chemical symbol for cannabinoids



Listed below are the areas of research being conducted by our members.

Adolescent Substance Abuse

Deborah Deas, M.D., M.P.H. has a long-standing research career in Adolescent Substance Abuse with special focus on psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy treatments of adolescents with alcohol and marijuana use disorders. She developed the Adolescent Obsessive-Compulsive Drinking Scale (A-OCDS) and the Deas-Marijuana Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Deas-MOCS) for use in adolescents. These scales are used in both research and clinical settings to assess alcohol and marijuana craving in adolescents and to evaluate improvements over time.

Endocannabinoid Modulation of Neural Synchrony and Auditory Processing 

The laboratory of Devin K. Binder, M.D., Ph.D., investigates the effects of endocannabinoid modulators on neural synchrony and auditory processing in Fragile X syndrome (FXS).  FXS is the most common inherited genetic cause of intellectual disability and most common single gene cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  It is often characterized by intellectual disability, anxiety, repetitive behavior, social communication deficits, delayed language development, and abnormal sensory processing.  This work aims to evaluate endocannabinoid modulation of electroencephalographic (EEG) biomarkers in FXS animal models in conjunction with the effects of endocannabinoid modulation of behavioral outcomes.  Our ultimate goal is to identify promising pharmacological targets for the treatment of FXS symptomatology. 

Endocannabinoids in Metabolic Health and Disease

The laboratory of UCR CCR director, Nicholas V. DiPatrizio, Ph.D. is dedicated to elucidating roles for the endocannabinoid system in the integrative neurobiology and physiology that controls metabolic health and disease, and the impact that cannabis exposure has on these processes. This work will support the discovery and development of novel therapeutic strategies to safely treat obesity and related metabolic and behavioral disorders.

Cannabis Policy 

Christopher Fichtner, M.D. has a longstanding interest in public-academic partnerships to improve behavioral health services for underserved populations.  An advocate for de-stigmatization of mental health issues and reform of criminalizing drug policies, Fichtner is the author of Cannabinomics: The Marijuana Policy Tipping Point (2010), exploring the convergence of medical, public health, and economic trajectories in the recent acceleration of cannabis policy reform. Fichtner has over 100 publications, including several dozen peer-reviewed articles.

Role of Endocannabinoids in the Regulation of Voluntary Exercise and Physical Activity

Theodore Garland, Jr., Ph.D. has, over the last 30 years, used selective breeding (artificial selection) to develop a novel mouse model for understanding the biology and genetics of physical activity and related traits.  More than 180 research papers have been published on the High Runner lines of mice, including several that involve the endocannabinoid system.  The involvement of this system in both motivation and ability for sustained, aerobic exercise are studied.  Given that exercise is vital for (1) the prevention of obesity, diabetes, and many diseases and (2) promotes both physical and mental health, this research is of broad significance. 

Maternal Exposure to Cannabinoids

Kelly Huffman, Ph.D.  has spent the last several years studying the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on developmental trajectories of offspring, using our mouse model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD).  More recently, we have turned our attention to creating a prenatal cannabis exposure model in mice so that we can begin to understand how exposure through maternal consumption or smoking can impact offspring brain and behavior.  As the number of women using cannabis products during pregnancy has increased, results from our new model will be of critical importance in the field of cannabinoid research.

Adolescent cannabis abuse and neuropsychiatric vulnerability

The laboratory of Edward Korzus, Ph.D. studies cortical network dynamics that support learning and memory, including how maladaptation in prefrontal networks leads to neuropsychiatric vulnerability. Our research investigates how abnormal interactions of neurodevelopment with the environment triggered by drugs of abuse during neonatal or adolescent periods may impair brain function, such as compromise inherent neuroprotection of the endocannabinoid system-dependent circuit integrity and neuroplasticity.

Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function by Endocannabinoids 

The laboratory of Declan F. McCole, Ph.D. studies mechanisms involved in maintaining the functional integrity of the intestinal barrier. The intestinal barrier is essential to digestion, host-microbe interactions, and immune development. Defects in the intestinal barrier lead to a variety of acute and chronic inflammatory diseases, and the endocannabinoid system is emerging as an important player in intestinal health. Therefore, the work of the McCole lab complements the studies of endocannabinoid regulation of metabolic disease (DiPatrizio lab) and host-defense (Nair lab).

Cannabinoids and Psychiatric Disorders

Howard Moss, M.D., has research interests that include understanding the role of both endocannabinoids and exogenous cannabinoids in psychiatric disorders, including the addictions, as well as parsing the impact of recreational cannabis use on therapeutic interventions for substance dependence. 

Endocannabinoid system signaling in host-pathogen interactions

Meera Nair, Ph.D.  is an infectious pathogen immunologist researching new targets for infection and inflammation using transgenic mouse models and clinical peripheral blood specimens. Her lab’s research on endocannabinoid system function in immune cells, such as macrophages and eosinophils, has uncovered critical immunoregulatory roles for cannabinoid receptors in helminth parasite infection. Ongoing research is investigating the function of endocannabinoids in the host and the helminth parasite.

Cannabinoid Chemistry

The laboratory of Michael Pirrung, Ph.D. emphasizes organic and peptide synthesis and medicinal chemistry. His interests in cannabinoid chemistry focus on the synthesis, structure, and stereochemistry of minor (non-THC, non-CBD) cannabinoids, and the influence of these factors on their medicinal properties.

Endocannabinoid Regulation of Synaptic and Circuit Physiology

The lab of Viji Santhakumar, M.B.B.S., Ph.D. has been focused on understanding the synaptic and circuit plasticity in traumatic brain injury and epilepsy with a specific focus on changes in inhibitory regulation. Endocannabinoids are synthesized during neuronal activity and can act as retrograde signals regulating synaptic function in certain classes of neurons. Our studies examine how endocannabinoid regulation of synaptic function and activity of specific endocannabinoid sensitive neuronal subtypes are altered in epilepsy and their implications for disease progress and therapeutics. 

Pest Management Practices

Houston Wilson, Ph.D. cannabinoid research interests center around the development of integrated pest management practices for cannabis production. We're currently working to document current pest management practices as well as characterize the arthropod community found on cannabis.

How Neural Mechanisms Facilitate Drug Addiction

Natalie E. Zlebnik, Ph.D. has studied drug addiction in animal models for more than 15 years. Her research program examines how drugs of abuse, including cannabis, exploit neural mechanisms of motivated behavior to facilitate the transition to drug addiction. The goal is to identify endocannabinoid-based molecular and circuit-level targets for the development of novel therapeutics to reduce drug craving and minimize the propensity to relapse.