Michael Taffe, PhD

Professor Adjunct
Department of Neuroscience


Research Focus

Substance Abuse Therapy

Methamphetamine: Addiction to d-methamphetamine (METH) interferes with many aspects of personal health, vocational performance, interpersonal relationships and financial well being. Behavioral consequences of METH abuse and the METH trade also strain legal and emergency medical resources throughout the US. Current therapeutic approaches for METH addiction are less than completely effective and no approved pharmacotherapies for METH addiction exist. Recent successes in early clinical trials using immunotherapeutic approaches for cocaine and nicotine addiction have motivated interest in creating similar approaches for methamphetamine addiction. The studies currently underway will create candidate active vaccines specific for METH (MCV) and evaluate the most promising candidates in a cascade of in vivo models.

Neuropharmacology of Drug Addiction

Substituted Cathinone "Bath Salts": A diverse array of new stimulant drugs based on the cathinone core structure emerged on worldwide markets starting around 2008-2009. Early entities included drugs such as 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC, mephedrone), 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone (methylone). Some exhibit neuropharmacological actions similar to MDMA, some are more similar to cocaine and some are more similar to traditional amphetamine stimulants such as methamphetamine. There are now over a dozen cathinone entities which have been placed under Schedule I control by the US DEA, and more of them may follow in an attempt to evade legal control. Our goal with the cathinone project is to determine how the pharmacological differences between these entities confer different risks for compulsive use and for thermoregulatory disruption of a life-threatening nature.

Cognitive Effects of Exposure to Abused Drugs

Individuals who 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 chronic use is complicated by the fact that most drug users have substantial rates of exposure to multiple drugs concurrently and across time. 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 the observed behavioral or cognitive impairment.


Ph.D. (Psychology), University of California, San Diego, 1995
M.A. (Psychology), University of California, San Diego, 1992
B.A. (Psychology), Colorado College, 1990

Professional Experience

2017-2018 Associate Professor, Neuroscience, Scripps Research
2007-2017 Associate Professor, Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders (CNAD), Scripps Research
2005-2007 Assistant Professor, Molecular and Integrative Neurosciences (MIND), Scripps Research
2000-2005 Assistant Professor, Neuropharmacology, Scripps Research
1996-2000 Postdoctoral Fellow, Neuropharmacology, Scripps Research
1995-1996 Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, San Diego
1990-1995 Predoctoral Fellow, University of California, San Diego

Awards & Professional Activities

Selected References

All Publications

Nguyen, J.D., Bremer, P.T., Ducime, Creehan, K.M., Kisby, B.R., Taffe, M.A. and Janda, K.D. Active vaccination attenuates the psychostimulant effects of α-PVP and MDPV in rats, Neuropharmacology, 2017, 116:1-8

Nguyen, J.D., Aarde, S.M., Cole, M., Vandewater, S.A., Grant, Y. and Taffe, M.A. Locomotor stimulant and rewarding effects of inhaling methamphetamine, MDPV and mephedrone via electronic cigarette-type technology, Neuropsychopharmacology, 2016, 41:2759-2771.

Miller, M.L., Aarde, S.M., Moreno, A.Y., Creehan, K.M., Janda, K.D. and Taffe, M.A Effects of active anti-methamphetamine vaccination on intravenous self-administration in rats. Drug Alcohol Depend, 2015, 153:29-36.

Wright, M.J., Jr., Vandewater, S.A. and Taffe, M.A. Cannabidiol attenuates deficits of visuo-spatial associative memory induced by Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, Brit J Pharmacol, 2013, 170:1365-1373.

Aarde, S.M., Huang, P-K, Creehan, K.M., Dickerson, T.J. and Taffe, M.A. The novel recreational drug 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) is a potent psychomotor stimulant: self-administration and locomotor activity in rats. Neuropharmacology, 2013, 71:130-140.

Miller, M.L., Moreno, A.Y., Aarde, S.M., Creehan, K.M., Vandewater, S.A., Vaillancourt, B.D., Wright, Jr., M.J., Janda, K.D. and Taffe, M.A. A methamphetamine vaccine attenuates methamphetamine-induced disruptions in thermoregulation and activity in rats, Biological Psychiatry, 2013 Apr 15;73(8):721-8.

Taffe, M.A., Kotzebue, R.W., Crean, R.D., Crawford, E.F., Edwards, S. and Mandyam, C.D. Long-lasting reduction in hippocampal neurogenesis by alcohol consumption in adolescent nonhuman primates, Proc Nat Acad Sci, 2010, 107(24):11104-11109


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