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Neurobiology and Behavior in Addiction Lab (Gipson-Reichardt)

Keywords:  addiction, nicotine, relapse, glutamate, synaptic plasticity

Lab Research Area:

The goal of our research is to identify novel pharmacological and behavioral interventions for the treatment of drug abuse, and to explore the neurobiological substrates of addiction. Our work has revealed novel neurobiological mechanisms of nicotine addiction, and has the potential to contribute to the development of novel therapeutic options aimed at reversing nicotine-induced alterations and thus improve smoking cessation outcomes. This work has resulted in translational collaborations to examine clinical efficacy of pharmacotherapeutics in promoting smoking cessation.

The lab examines the neurobiological underpinnings of cue-triggered motivation and conditioned reinforcement, specifically examining alterations in synaptic plasticity via dendritic spine morphology and glutamatergic signaling in nicotine self-administration and reinstatement. This research utilizes both in vivo and in vitro methodologies to study rapid alterations in synaptic plasticity (measured as changes in dendritic spines or AMPA/NMDA ratios) during or immediately following behavior (specifically, during reinstatement of cocaine or nicotine seeking).

Contributions of Glial Glutamate Transport and NMDA Receptors in Nicotine Relapse

The goal of this grant is to investigate nicotine-induced changes in synaptic strength, with a focus on alterations in the glial glutamate transporter and the GluN2B subunit of the glutamate NMDA receptor.  This grant has the potential to reveal novel neurobiological mechanisms of nicotine addiction, and could contribute to the development of novel therapeutic options aimed at reversing nicotine-induced neurobiological alterations. Funding for the grant has been through The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).


If you're an ASU undergrad and would like to work in the lab as a volunteer or for PSY 399/499 course credit, please visit the Research Opportunites webpage and look for the lab name.  Although priority will be given to Psychology majors, all science majors are encouraged to apply.

Lab Director & Principle Investigator: Cassandra Gipson-Reichardt, PhD, Assistant Professor

Dr. Gipson-Reichardt received her BS from the UC San Diego in 2004 and her PhD from the University of Kentucky in 2010. In 2015 she completed her post-doctoral fellowship in the lab of Dr. Peter Kalivas at the Medical University of South Carolina. Her primary research goal is to examine synaptic mechanisms underlying motivated behavioral processes that are perturbed in neuropsychiatric disorders such as nicotine addiction.  The behavioral plasticity induced by drugs of abuse is an ideal model system in which to apply her interests with direct ties to public health and well-being. Her work focuses on the synaptic mechanisms that underlie drug relapse vulnerability. To accomplish this, multiple cutting-edge techniques are utilized including dendritic spine morphology, electrophysiology, self-administration, use of vivo morpholinos, in vivo microdialysis, and Western blotting. Curriculum Vitae

Post-doctoral Research Fellow(s)

Greg Powell, PhD

Greg received his undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, working on gait rehabilitation support systems for amputees and victims of traumatic brain injury. He then earned his doctoral degree in Physiological Sciences from the University of Arizona studying the effects of developmental nicotine exposure on respiratory motoneurons in neonatal rats. He has since joined the labs of Dr. Cassandra Gipson-Reichardt and Dr. Janet Neisewander and works on the behavioral, electrophysiological, and genetic components of substance use disorder, with particular interest in nicotine’s role in altering synaptic plasticity within the nucleus accumbens.

Graduate Students

Mark Namba, Doctoral student, Department of Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience

Mark received his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Florida where he assisted in studying glutamatergic plasticity in cocaine relapse and post-traumatic stress disorder under the mentorship of Drs. Lori Knackstedt and Marek Schwendt. As Dr. Gipson-Reichardt’s graduate student, his current project will focus on utilizing a vivo morpholino strategy to investigate the role of extracellular glutamate transport within the nucleus accumbens in cue-primed nicotine relapse.

Lab Manager

Julianna Goenaga, B.S.

Julianna graduated from Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Science and concentration in Biology and Society. As a junior, she became interested in neuroscience research and worked in Dr. Neisewander’s lab studying nicotine addiction and later worked in an epilepsy research lab at Barrow Neurological Institute. As Dr. Gipson-Reichardt’s lab manager she's excited to be researching the neurobiology of nicotine addiction.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Armani Del Franco
Benjamin Korn
Broc Pagni
Cammi Swift


If you're an ASU undergrad and would like to work in the lab as a volunteer or for PSY 399/499 course credit, please visit the Research Opportunites webpage and look for the lab name.  Although priority will be given to Psychology majors, all science majors are encouraged to apply.

Select Publications

Below are a sample of recent publications from Dr. Gipson-Reichardt’s research and lab. A more complete listing may be found in Dr. Gipson-Reichardt’s curriculum vitae.

In press
Garcia-Keller, C., Kupchik, Y.M., Roberts-Wolfe, D., Gipson, C.D., Kalivas, P.W., Cancela, L.M. (in press). Shared enduring glutamatergic adaptations in accumbens after acute stress and cocaine use: Possible mechanisms of comorbidity between stress disorders and cocaine addiction.  Molecular Psychiatry.

McClure, E.A., Gipson, C.D., Malcolm, R., Kalivas, P.W., Gray, K.M. (2014).  Potential Role of N-Acetyl-Cysteine in the Management of Substance Use Disorders.  CNS Drugs. PMID: 24442756

Kalivas, P.W. & Gipson, C.D. (2014).  “Mourning” a Lost Opportunity.  Commentary on: A multistep general theory of transition to addiction by Piazza and Deroche-Gamonet (2013), Psychopharmacology. PMID: 24862367

McClure, E.A., Baker, N.L., Gipson, C.D., Carpenter, M.J., Roper, A., Froeliger, B., Kalivas, P.W., & Gray, K.M. (2014). An open-label pilot trial of N-acetylcysteine and varenicline in adult cigarette smokers. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. PMID: 25062287

Gipson, C.D., & Kalivas, P.W. (2014).   More Cocaine = More Glutamate = More Addiction. Biological Psychiatry, doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.08.010. Epub 2014 Oct 31. PMID: 25442059

Smith, A.W., Kupchik, Y.M., Scofield, M.D., Gipson, C.D., Wiggins, A.T., Thomas, C.A., & Kalivas, P.W. (2014). Synaptic plasticity mediating cocaine relapse requires matrix metalloproteinases. Nature Neuroscience. doi: 10.1038/nn.3846. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 25326689

Gipson, C.D.*, Kupchik, Y.M.*, Shen, H.*, Reissner, K.J., Thomas, C.A., & Kalivas, P.W. (2013).  Relapse induced by cues predicting cocaine depends on rapid, transient synaptic potentiation. Neuron, 77(5), 867-72. PMID:  23473317.

Gipson, C.D., Reissner, K.J., Kupchik, Y.M., Smith, A.W., Stankeviciute, N., Hensley-Simon, M.E.., & Kalivas, P.W. (2013).  Nicotine relapse is mediated by glutamatergic plasticity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(22), 9124-9. PMID: 23671067.

Stankeviciute, N., Scofield, M., Kalivas, P.W., & Gipson, C.D. (2013).  Context-induced reinstatement elicits rapid, reversible increases in dendritic spine morphology in nucleus accumbens core. Addiction Biology. PMID: 23648005

Gipson, C.D., Kupchik, Y.M., & Kalivas, P.W. (2013).  Rapid, transient synaptic plasticity in addiction.  NIDA 40th anniversary edition of Neuropharmacology. PMID: 23639436.


In the News and More!

College on Problems of Drug Dependence Conference, June 2016, Palm Springs, CA. Pictured left to right: Dr. Gregory Powell, Dr. Cassie Gipson-Reichardt, and Armani del Franco (undergrad in SOLS).


Conference presentation at Barrow Neurological Institute, 7 Jan 2016


From NIDA Notes:  New Insight Into How Cues Cause Relapse to Cocaine (posted 30 May, 2014).


Honors and Awards
Young Psychopharmacologist Award
Outstanding Dissertation Award