Research in the Taffe Laboratory focuses on the effects of recreational or abused drugs on the brain and the resulting changes in behavior. We have a specific interest in higher level cognitive functions such as learning, memory and attention.The Laboratory also conducts research on compulsive use of drugs. This line of work focuses on factors involved in the transition from casual to repetitive drug use, as well as on novel therapeutic approaches using the immune system.
Curent projects in the laboratory focus on the substituted cathinones (including 3,4-methylnedioxypyrovalerone; MDPV, mephedrone and methylone), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or "Ecstasy"), methamphetamine, cannabis and alcohol.
Addiction to psychomotor stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine interferes with numerous aspects of personal health, vocational performance, interpersonal relationships and financial well being. Behavioral consequences of stimulant abuse and the illicit drug trade also strain legal and emergency medical resources throughout the US. Current therapeutic approaches for methamphetamine addiction are less than completely effective (no approved pharmacotherapies for methamphetamine addiction exist).
Recent successes in early clinical trials using immunotherapeutic approaches for cocaine and nicotine addiction have motivated interest in creating similar vaccines for methamphetamine addiction.
Individuals who chronically ingest recreational drugs have been shown to exhibit a number of cognitive or behavioral impairments. Conclusive linking of such behavioral problems to a specific drug or pattern of intake is complicated by the fact that most drug users have substantial rates of exposure to multiple drugs of abuse. In particular exposure to alcohol, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and nicotine is common in users of most other drugs. Furthermore, it is impossible to demonstrate that cognitive performance levels in recreational users are not merely a reflection of pre-existing group differences. Thus animal models are necessary to demonstrate a causal relationship between a specific pattern of drug exposure and behavioral or cognitive impairment.
Discussion of scientific issues and papers related to our work can be found at the TLNeuro Blog.