Nathan Pentkowski Lab

Director: Nathan Pentkowski

Research Interests

  • Neurobiology of drug addiction, including cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol, and nicotine
  • Behavioral and neurobiological consequences of adolescent exposure to nicotine, ethanol, and cocaine
  • Neurobiology of anxiety and fear related defensive behaviors
  • Social influences on drug self-administration and relapse, including prosocial interactions and chronic social stress
  • Examining serotonin (e.g., 5-HT1B, 5-HT2C, 5-HT2A) and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF1) receptors as novel targets for treating drug addiction and affective disorders
  • Changes in microRNAs (e.g., miR-495, HuD) expression following exposure to chronic social stress and drugs of abuse
  • Selective manipulation of mesocorticolimbic structures using viral-mediated gene transfer and DREADD technology

Selected Publications

  • Neisewander, JL, Cheung, THC and Pentkowski, NS (2014). Dopamine D3 and 5-HT1Breceptordysregulation as a result of psychostimulant intake and forced abstinence: Implications for medications development. Special issue: NIDA’s 40th Anniversary, Neuropharmacology, 76 Pt B: 301-19.
  • Pentkowski, NS, Harder, BG, Brunwasser, SJ, Bastle, RM, Peartree, NA, Yanamandra, K, NA, Adams, MD and Neisewander, JL (2014). Pharmacological evidence for an abstinence-induced switch in 5-HT1B receptor modulation of cocaine self-administration and cocaine-seeking behavior. ACS ChemNeurosci, 5, 168-76.
  • Pentkowski, NS, Tovote, P, Blanchard, DC, Litvin, Y and Blanchard, RJ (2013). Cortagine infused into the medial prefrontal cortex attenuates predator-induced defensive behaviors and Fos protein production in selective nuclei of the amygdala in male CD1 mice. HormBehav, 64, 519-26.
  • Neisewander, JL, Peartree, NA and Pentkowski, NS (2012). Emotional valence and context of social influences on drug abuse-related behavior in animal models of social stress and prosocial interaction. Special issue: Drug Action in Social Context, Psychopharmacology (Berl), 224, 33-56.
  • Bastle, RM, Kufahl, PR, Turk, MN, Weber, SM, Pentkowski, NS, Thiel, KJ and Neisewander, JL (2012). Novel cues reinstate cocaine-seeking behavior and Induce Fos protein expression as effectively as conditioned cues. Neuropsychopharmacology, 37, 2109-20.
  • Pentkowski, NS, Cheung, THC, Toy, WA, Adams, MD, Neumaier, JF and Neisewander, JL (2012). Protracted withdrawal from cocaine self-administration flips the switch on 5-HT1B receptor modulation of cocaine-abuse related behaviors. Biol Psychiatry, 72, 396-404.
  • Pentkowski, NS, Duke, FD, Weber, SM, Pockros, LA, Teer, AP, Hamilton, EC,Thiel, KJ and Neisewander, JL (2010). Stimulation of medial prefrontal cortex 5-HT2C receptors attenuates cocaine-seeking behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 2037-48.
  • Blanchard, DC, Canteras, NS, Markham, CM, Pentkowski, NS and Blanchard, RJ (2005). Lesions of structures showing FOS expression to cat presentation: Effects on responsivity to a cat, cat odor, and nonpredator threat. NeurosciBiobehav Rev, 29, 1243-53.

Courses Taught

  • PSY 347: Drugs and Behavior
  • PSY 450: Neurobiology of Drug Abuse
  • PSY 547: Drugs and Behavior


Graduate Students:

  • Kyle Dixon

Undergraduate Students:

  • Jennifer Espinosa
  • Mallory Druse
  • Gabriela Martinez

Research Technicians:

  • Carlos Olguin

The likelihood of accepting a new graduate student for the Fall 2016 semester is high. Good GREs and academic performance are expected, and a great emphasis will be placed on research experience, publications/presentations, and letters of reference.