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Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Advanced Search

Robert Christopher Pierce, PhD

Robert Christopher Pierce, PhD

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Professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry
Department: Psychiatry
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
Center for Neurobiology and Behavior
Translational Research Laboratory
125 South 31st Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 215-746-8915
Fax: 215-573-7605
PhD (Neuroscience)
Indiana University, 1993.
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Description of Research Expertise

Dr. Pierce’s interest in the neuropharmacology of drugs of abuse began while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Kentucky. Working with Dr. Michael Bardo in the Psychology Department, Dr. Pierce studied the effects of amphetamine on the mesolimbic dopamine system. He continued to pursue his interest in the effects of psychostimulants on brain dopamine systems through graduate school at Indiana University, where he worked with Dr. George Rebec. Dr. Pierce received post-doctoral training from Dr. Peter Kalivas at Washington State University. Their work indicated that glutamate, in a complex interaction with limbic dopamine, plays an important role in both the development and long-term expression of behavioral sensitization to cocaine, an animal model of addiction. Dr. Pierce established an independent laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology at Boston University School of Medicine in 1997. Dr. Pierce joined the Department of Psychiatry’s Center for Neurobiology and Behavior in October 2008.

Currently, there are no effective therapies for cocaine addiction, which directly affects over two million people in the United States alone. This reality is the driving force for Dr. Pierce’s research program. The major hurdle for abstaining from abuse of cocaine is intense drug craving, which can be triggered months and even years following the cessation of drug use. The most widely accepted model of craving in animals involves self-administration followed by extinction and the subsequent reinstatement of drug seeking. Using this animal model, Dr. Pierce’s research team pursues a strategy to identify novel neurobiological adaptations produced by cocaine. This information then can be used to formulate potential cocaine addiction therapies.

For additional information see www.piercelab.org

Selected Publications

Yee Judy, Famous Katie R, Hopkins Thomas J, McMullen Michael C, Pierce R Christopher, Schmidt Heath D: Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the nucleus accumbens core and shell contribute to cocaine priming-induced reinstatement of drug seeking. European journal of pharmacology 650(2-3): 596-604, Jan 2011.

Briand Lisa A, Vassoler Fair M, Pierce R Christopher, Valentino Rita J, Blendy Julie A: Ventral tegmental afferents in stress-induced reinstatement: the role of cAMP response element-binding protein. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 30(48): 16149-59, Dec 2010.

Pierce R Christopher, Vanderschuren Louk J M J: Kicking the habit: the neural basis of ingrained behaviors in cocaine addiction. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews 35(2): 212-9, Nov 2010.

Sadri-Vakili Ghazaleh, Kumaresan Vidhya, Schmidt Heath D, Famous Katie R, Chawla Prianka, Vassoler Fair M, Overland Ryan P, Xia Eva, Bass Caroline E, Terwilliger Ernest F, Pierce R Christopher, Cha Jang-Ho J: Cocaine-induced chromatin remodeling increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor transcription in the rat medial prefrontal cortex, which alters the reinforcing efficacy of cocaine. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 30(35): 11735-44, Sep 2010.

Schmidt Heath D, Pierce R Christopher: Cocaine-induced neuroadaptations in glutamate transmission: potential therapeutic targets for craving and addiction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1187: 35-75, Feb 2010.

Vanderschuren Louk J M J, Pierce R Christopher: Sensitization processes in drug addiction. Current topics in behavioral neurosciences 3: 179-95, 2010.

Schmidt Heath D, Famous Katie R, Pierce R C: The limbic circuitry underlying cocaine seeking encompasses the PPTg/LDT. The European journal of neuroscience 30(7): 1358-69, Oct 2009.

Kumaresan Vidhya, Yuan Menglu, Yee Judy, Famous Katie R, Anderson Sharon M, Schmidt Heath D, Pierce R Christopher: Metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) antagonists attenuate cocaine priming- and cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking. Behavioural Brain Research 202(2): 238-44, Sep 2009.

Sadri-Vakili G, Janis G C, Pierce R C, Gibbs T T, Farb D H: Nanomolar concentrations of pregnenolone sulfate enhance striatal dopamine overflow in vivo. The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics 327(3): 840-5, Dec 2008.

Famous Katie R, Kumaresan Vidhya, Sadri-Vakili Ghazaleh, Schmidt Heath D, Mierke Dale F, Cha Jang-Ho J, Pierce R Christopher: Phosphorylation-dependent trafficking of GluR2-containing AMPA receptors in the nucleus accumbens plays a critical role in the reinstatement of cocaine seeking. The Journal of Neuroscience 28(43): 11061-70, Oct 2008.

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Last updated: 06/18/2015
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