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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology

Biological Psychology

Neuropharmacological and behavioral approaches are combined to explore the relationship between the biology of the organism and its behavior. Research in the department incorporates neurochemical, immunohistochemical, molecular and genetic techniques to determine causation of behavior from numerous perspectives, in collaboration with faculty in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience (IPN).

Associated Faculty: Henricks, McLaughlin, Morgan, Quock

Research interests within this area:

Addictions (Henricks, McLaughlin, Morgan, Quock)

Cannabis (Henricks, McLaughlin, Morgan)

Pain (Morgan, Quock)


Behavioral Neuroscience Lab

Angela M. Henricks
Work in the lab uses rodent models to better understand the neurobiology of substance use and mental illness. We use translational approaches to identify neural circuits associated with addiction-related behavior and development, often in the context of co-occurring mental illness. Since males and females demonstrate different vulnerabilities to psychological disorders (e.g., addiction, depression, psychosis), and females have historically been understudied in preclinical research, we are particularly focused on understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of these sex differences. Our ultimate goal is to enhance translation of preclinical findings to clinical populations, and contribute to the development of personalized, effective therapies for substance use disorder and mental illness in women and men.

Behavioral Pharmacology Lab

Raymond M. Quock
Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO₂) therapy is breathing 100% pressurized oxygen for therapeutic purposes. HBO₂ actually originated in the 1600s but over the years has emerged as a recommended treatment for decompression sickness, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other conditions. For the past ten years, our laboratory has been describing and characterizing the varied pharmacological effects of HBO₂. Our research has suggested a relationship between HBO₂-induced antinociception and the endogenous opioid systems, and between HBO₂-induced antianxiety effects and brain GABA-benzodiazepine receptors. We identified the role of the biological regulator nitric oxide in the effects of HBO₂. HBO₂ therapy has been approved by the FDA for a limited set of clinical indications, although there are clinical reports that HBO₂ therapy appears to be effective in a broader range of conditions. Further research into the mechanisms of HBO₂ may contribute to expanding its potential clinical uses.
mclaughlin-ryan-thumbRyan McLaughlin
The increasingly pervasive impact of stress in our day-to-day lives has served as a catalyst for the growing prevalence of affective disorders in today’s society. Consequently, understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of stress and the mechanisms by which these factors influence the brain and behavior is of the utmost importance. My research to date has focused on elucidating the neuroanatomical framework that mediates stress coping, emotionality, and goal-directed behavior, and how exposure to environmental factors (i.e., chronic stress, drugs of abuse) can produce long-lasting neurobiological adaptations that contribute to disruptions in homeostasis and the emergence of negative affective states. This is the foundation of my research program as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience at Washington State University (WSU).

Neural Mechanisms of Pain Modulation

Michael Morgan
The analgesic effects of morphine and other opioids decrease with repeated administration. Our lab has shown that a brain structure known as the periaqueductal gray plays an important role in morphine analgesia and tolerance. Our current objective is to understand the neural mechanism within the periaqueductal gray that causes this change in morphine potency. These studies use in vitro electrophysiology and behavioral pharmacology to link molecular changes in cell signaling to behavior.