Professor, Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics
After a childhood in Africa, I was educated in England (MA Cambridge, PhD Kings College London) and received postdoctoral training at NIMH (Bethesda, USA) and UBC.
Addiction research: The cigarette habit is still one of the leading causes of death and disease worldwide, and drugs designed to aid smoking cessation are largely ineffective. Nicotine's role in tobacco addiction is both insidious and puzzling; for example, unlike drugs such as heroin and cocaine, nicotine is only a weak positive reinforcer. We believe that standard animal models do not fully capture the smoking-relevant effects of nicotine, and we are seeking to create better models in order to probe behavioural and pharmacological mechanisms that contribute to tobacco addiction.
Rat ultrasonic vocalizations: Rats seem silent to us, but they are in fact quite vocal - but at frequencies beyond our hearing range. These animals emit a wide variety of ultrasonic (20-80 kHz) vocalizations, and our research suggests that some specific kinds of vocalizations reflect the rat's affective (mood) state. As such, ultrasonic vocalizations potentially provide a valuable complement to standard behavioural tests of motivation, and we think that they could prove useful in improved animal models related to addiction, mania and depression.
In vivo biosensors: We are also starting to apply biosensors in living rodents, using fibre photometry to record intracellular activity. This project is in collaboration with my colleague Prof. Terence Hébert.
I am also an external member of Concordia University's Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology: