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Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory

(05/16/2012) McLean Hospital study finds Herbal Extract may curb binge drinking

For information about the recent kudzu study, please visit the lab's kudzu study page.

Directed by David M. Penetar, Ph.D., the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory (BPRL) is a clinical research laboratory focused on exploring the neurobiological bases of drug and alcohol-induced reward, and on developing new medications and treatments for drug and alcohol abuse.

Because many of the study protocols involve assessing brain activity using fMRI, or measuring brain changes using MRS, the laboratory collaborates heavily with scientists from McLean's Brain Imaging Center and relocated to the first floor of the newly renovated Neuroimaging Center in June of 2001.

Scott Lukas

Dr. Scott Lukas

Recent Updates

Dr. Lukas established the laboratory in 1990. It was previously located in East House.

Researchers in the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Laboratory discovered that ingestion of the herb kudzu reduced the intoxicating effects of low doses of alcohol in adult social drinkers while producing no side effects. In collaboration with researchers from the MRC's Bio-Organic and Natural Products Laboratory, led by David Yue-Wei Lee, PhD, we have isolated a crude extract of the root that is 50 times more powerful than the raw product. Studies are underway to determine this product's effects on social drinking in a natural setting.

Sleep Research Laboratory

Cindy Dorset

Dr. Cynthia Dorsey, Ph.D. with Dr. David Harper, Ph.D. of the Geriatric Research Lab

Recent Updates

Researchers in the Sleep Research Laboratory, led by director Scott Lukas, continue to work in collaboration with investigators in the Brain Imaging Center to attempt to detect chemical changes in the brain that may be related to sleep disturbance associated with substance abuse and changes in sleep homeostasis. Such chemical changes in the brain are undetectable by more traditional means of assessment which measure only blood flow and glucose metabolism. Recent preliminary data obtained from control subjects studied in the 4-Tesla scanner replicated the investigators' previous findings using the 1.5 T of an increase in beta-NTP, a correlate of ATP, on the morning after a night of recovery sleep immediately following sleep deprivation. The 4T study results also showed a significant increase in beta-NTP on the morning after sleep deprivation, before recovery sleep. Methadone-maintained individuals are being studied using the same protocol. Continuing research on the effects of sleep deprivation on brain chemistry in those who are drug dependent may lead to a better understanding of changes in sleep as a function of substance abuse and withdrawal-related insomnia as an important contributor to relapse.

Investigators in the Sleep Research Laboratory participated in a multi-center trial using zolpidem to treat menopause-related insomnia. Recently published results from this trial showed subjective improvements in sleep quality and quantity with use of zolpidem.

The Sleep Research Laboratory maintains a close collaboration with ongoing clinical trials at the Sleep HealthCenters®.

Behavioral Psychopharmacology Research Laboratory &
Sleep Research Laboratory

The Sleep Research Laboratory is led by director David M. Penetar, Ph.D. and is located in the NeuroImaging Center of McLean Hospital.  Originally developed by Drs. Scott E. Lukas and Cynthia M. Dorsey, the Sleep Research Laboratory remains dedicated to conducting experimentation in pursuit of gaining scientific understanding of human sleep physiology and behavior. Past and present experimentation in the Sleep Research Laboratory covers a broad spectrum of research interests comprised of our goals in conducting clinical experimental sleep research and clinical trial research. 

Our Research

Our research attempts to characterize the relationship between sleep and physical and mental health. One primary focus has been the investigation of the causes and consequences of disordered sleep.  Within this area of study, we have directed interests in understanding sleep in psychiatric disorders, the neurocognitive and behavioral effects of insomnia, and the efficacy and mechanisms of action of behavioral therapy and of sedative hypnotics. 
Another primary focus of the Sleep Research Laboratory is the examination of the interaction of sleep physiology and behavior with drugs of abuse.  Research from our laboratory has attempted to provide a greater understanding of the interactions between sleep physiology and behavior with drug addiction.  For example, research has both examined the effects of drugs of abuse on sleep, the effects of disordered sleep in drug-dependent populations, and the effects of sleep loss in drug-taking behaviors.  Understanding the contribution of sleep loss in increasing drug-relapse potential and in perpetuating drug use remains of particular interest to our research group.

The Sleep Research Laboratory maintains a close collaboration with ongoing clinical trials and at the Sleep HealthCenters®

Study Recruitment

The following are studies at the BRPL and SRL for which we are looking for volunteers. See the McLean Research study page for more information about these and other clinical trials at McLean.

More Information