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Department of Psychological Sciences

Erik GarciaErik Joseph Garcia

Advisor: Dr. Mary Cain

Description of Research

Interestingly, many people experiment with drugs, but only a fraction of users become compulsive drug takers. I am interested in understanding individual difference traits that contribute to compulsive drug taking. Novelty and sensation seeking are traits identified in both humans and rodents that contribute to self-administration and compulsive drug taking. Yet, it is unclear whether high novel seeking rodents are more or less sensitive to psychomotor stimulants. Wouldn’t it be great if the animals could tell us!?!

Ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) are a real-time measure of affective and motivational states in rodents, especially under the influence of psychomotor stimulants. Rats can be bred to be high and low USV callers, suggesting USV could reveal differences in sensitivity between high and low vocalizing animals. My current research focuses on determining the relationship between novelty and USVs in an effort to predict amphetamine-induced drug response in rodents.


Garcia, E.J., McCowan, T.J., & Cain, M.E. (2015). Harmonic and frequency modulated ultrasonic vocalizations reveal differences in conditioned and unconditioned reward processing. Behavioural Brain Research.


Garcia, E.J., & Cain, M.E. (2015). Ultrasonic vocalizations reveal differences in reward processing between low and high novelty responders. Poster presented at National Institute on Drug Abuse Diversity Supplement Workshop. Bethesda, Maryland. April, 2015

Garcia, E.J., & Cain, M.E. (2015). Repeated amphetamine administration is more rewarding in low-novelty seeking rats. Talk presented at Southwestern Psychological Association Annual Meeting, Southwestern Comparative and Behavioral Neuroscience Association, Wichita, Kansas. April, 2015

Ulmer, M., Arndt, D., Erickson, G., Garcia, E.J., Cain, M.E. (2015). Glutamatergic deactivation decreases amphetamine self-administration: role of differential rearing. Poster presented at Southwestern Psychological Association Annual Meeting, Wichita, Kansas. April, 2015

Erickson, G., Arndt, D., Ulmer, M., Garcia, E.J., Cain, M.E. (2015). Enrichment and glutamate homeostasis: The role of environmental condition on addiction. Poster presented at Southwestern Psychological Association Annual Meeting, Wichita, Kansas. April, 2015

Arndt, D., Dietz, Z., Johns, K., Garcia, E.J., Cain, M.E. (2014). The role of differential rearing and mGluR5 inactivation on amphetamine self-administration in male rats. Poster presented at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. November, 2014

Garcia, E. J., McCowan, T. J., Johns, K. C., & Cain, M. E. (2014). Response to novel environment predicts amphetamine-induced 50 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations after withdrawal from a low and high dose of amphetamine. Poster presented to be presented at the 44th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Washington, D.C. November, 2014

Dietz, Z., Johns, K., Garcia, E. & Cain, M. (2014). Understanding the Relationship of Different Novelty Assessments in Sprague Dawley Rats. Poster presented at the Annual Kansas State Research Forum. Manhattan, Kansas. March, 2014.

Garcia, E. J., McCowan, T. J., & Cain, M. E. (2013). A moderator dose of amphetamine fails to evoke 50 kHz ultrasonic vocalization but induces psychomotor hyperactivity. Poster presented at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. San Diego, CA. November, 2013.

Garcia, E. J., McCowan, T. J., & Cain, M. E. (2013). The relationship between the response to novelty and 50 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations in response to amphetamine. Poster presented at the 61st annual Nebraska Symposium on Motivation. Lincoln, Nebraska. April, 2013.

Garcia, E. J., Blaesing, S., & Palmatier, M. I. (2012). The effects of acute and chronic nicotine on locomotor activity and ultrasonic vocalizations. Poster presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. New Orleans, LA.

Jones, S. A., Garcia, E. J., Jones, B. L., & Palmatier, M. I. Continuous intravenous caffeine infusions dose-dependently increased the motivation to obtain alcohol in rats. Poster presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. New Orleans, LA.

Grants and Awards

Neuroscience Scholars Program: Associate member, Kansas State University, 2014-2016            

Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research Programs, National Institute of Health; National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3R15DA035435-01S1, Kansas State University, 2014-2016, Award $73k            

Timothy R. Donoghue Graduate Scholarship, Kansas State University, 2011, 2012, & 2013        

Vaughn Scholarship Undergraduate Scholarship, Nebraska Wesleyan University, 2006, 2007 & 2010

Teaching Experiences (Primary Instructor)           

General Psychology Psych 110 – Spring 2014

Research Methods Lab Psych 350 – Spring 2014 & Fall 2013

Teaching Experiences (GTA)

     **Denotes graduate course**

**Research Design Psych 803 – Spring 2013**

**Quantitative Methods Psych 802 – Fall 2012**

Drugs and Behavior Psych 202 – Fall 2012 & 2011

Psychopharmacology Psych 570 – Spring 2012

General Psychology Psych 110 – Spring 2012

Social Psychology Psych 535 – Fall 2011

Guest Lecturer

Drugs and Behavior Psych 202 – Fall 2013
     Pharmacology of medical marijuana


Kansas State University, M.S. – Fall 2014
     Experimental Psychology: Behavioral Neuroscience

Colorado State University B.S. – Fall 2010

Contact Information

Email: ejgarcia@ksu.edu

Phone: 720-233-3099