Mary E. Cain, Ph. D.

cainContact Information

Office: BH 418

Phone: 532-6884


Research Interests

My research examines the neurobiological basis of drug abuse using a rodent model. I currently have two research areas. The first research area is examining the neural structures that contribute to elevated drug use in rats. Rats who are highly responsive to novel stimuli or who are raised in an isolated environment are more sensitive to drugs of abuse. I use locomotor activity, self-administration, and brain microinfusions to determine the brain areas that may contribute to the elevated responding in these rats. The second area of research is examining the effects of emotion on drug taking behavior in rats. Fear and stress elevate drug taking behavior. I am investigating the brain areas that may contribute to this elevation in a context that has previously been paired with a stressful stimulus in differentially reared rats. Both my research areas are attempting to determine the neuronal structures that contribute to drug taking behavior in order to develop methods to decrease drug use using both behavioral and neurobiological techniques.

I received my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Vermont in 2002 under the supervision of Dr. Bruce Kapp. My dissertation examined how Pavlovian conditioned stimuli affect the processing of sensory information. From 2002 to 2004, I was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky under the supervision of Dr. Michael Bardo. My postdoctoral research examined individual differences in amphetamine self-administration in the rat.

Student Involvement

Undergraduate and graduate students working in my laboratory are involved in all aspects of the research process. Depending upon the students' interest, they can learn small animal stereotaxic surgery, Pavlovian and operant conditioning models, intravenous self-administration, brain microinfusions, and histology. Students will learn how to design projects, write grants to fund the projects, analyze the data, and will be given the opportunity to contribute to the publication of the results. Undergraduate student authors are indicated with a number sign (#) in the publications listed on this page. In addition to publications, students are encouraged to attend scientific meetings (e.g. The Society for Neuroscience) to present their research. In general, graduate students are funded with federal grants when money is available or through departmental graduate teaching assistantships. Dr. Cain can be contacted by email ( or phone (785-532-6884) by students interested in more information about opportunities in her lab.

Current Graduate Students

David Arndt, B.S. University of Kentucky (2010). Dave joined the lab in 2011 and his first year project examined the role of mGluR2/3 in amphetamine-induced sensitization in differentially reared rats. He is currently developing his Master's thesis which will examine the attenuation of depressive-like states via the combination of environmental enrichment and serotonin receptor activation.

Erik Garcia, B.S. Colorado State University (2010). Erik recently joined the lab. He examined the relationship between nicotine and ultrasonic vocalizations for his first year project. He is currently developing his Master's thesis examining the ability of ultrasonic vocalizations to predict individual differences in drug abuse vulnerability.

Emily Reinhardt, B.S. Kansas State University (2010). Emily completed her undergraduate research in the lab and returned as a graduate student in 2011. She recently completed her first year project examining the ability of environmental enrichment to accelerate extinction learning. She is currently developing her Master's thesis which will examine the role of the rearing environment on stress-induced reinstatement of drug taking behaviors.

Previous Graduate Students

Margaret Gill, Ph.D (2010); B.S. Luther College. Maggie's dissertation examined the contribution of mGluR5 to amphetamine-induced conditioned hyperactivity and sensitization in differentially reared rats. Maggie is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Neuroscience Department at the Medical University of South Carolina. Representative publications from her graduate training:

  • Gill, M.J. & Cain, M.E. (2011). Effects of satiety on operant responding in rats raised inenrichment. Behavioural Pharmacology, 22(1), 40-48.
  • Gill, M.J., # Arnold, J.A., & Cain, M.E. (2012). Impact of mGluR5 during amphetamine-induced hyperactivity and conditioned hyperactivity indifferentially reared rats. Psychopharmacology, 221(2), 227-237.

Rosemary Coolon, M.S. (2008); B.S. Kansas State University. Rose's Master's thesis examined the role of nicotinic receptors in enrichment-induced protection against nicotine sensitization. Rose is currently a Research Associate at the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan. Representative publications from her graduate training:

  • Coolon, R.A., & Cain, M.E. (2009). Effects of mecamylamine on nicotine-induced conditioned hyperactivity and sensitization in differentially reared rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 93(1), 59-66.
  • Coolon, R.A., & Cain, M.E. (2009). Individual differences in response to novelty and the conditioned locomotor effects of nicotine. Behavioural Pharmacology, 20(4), 322-329.

Representative Publications (# indicates undergraduate student co-author)

Cain, M.E., #Mersmann, M.G., Gill, M.J., #Pittenger, S.T. (in press). Dose dependent effects of differential rearing on amphetamine-induced hyperactivity. Behavioural Pharmacology.

Cain, M.E., Coolon, R.A., & Gill, M.J. (2009). The contribution of the central nucleus of the amygdala to individual differences in amphetamine-induced hyperactivity. Behavioural Brain Research, 202(1), 11-18.

Cain, M.E., Deheny, E.M., & Bardo, M.T. (2008). Individual differences in amphetamine self administration: The role of the central nucleus of the amygdala. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33(5), 1149-1161.

Cain, M.E., Saucier, D.A. & Bardo, M.T. (2005). Novelty seeking and drug use: Contribution of an animal model. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 13(4), 367-375.

Cain, M.E., Kapp, B.S., & #Puryear, C.B. (2002). The contribution of the amygdala to conditioned thalamic arousal. The Journal of Neuroscience, 22(24), 11026-11034.