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Department of Psychological Sciences

Department of Psychological Sciences
Kansas State University
492 Bluemont Hall
1114 Mid-Campus Dr North
Manhattan, Kansas 66506-5302

785-532-5401 fax

Mary E. Cain, Ph. D.

cainContact Information

Office: BH 424

Phone: 532-6884

E-mail: mecain@ksu.edu

Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity (CNAP)



Research Interests

My research program examines the impact of the early environment on drug-taking and relapse to drug taking in adulthood. Below are two ongoing projects in the laboratory.

  1. Glutamate transmission: We are examining if changes to mechanisms that regulate glutamate transmission contribute to differences in relapse in rats raised in different environments. To complete these projects, we use a combination of tools including behavioral pharmacology, western blots, and immunohistochemistry. Our results indicate that the early rearing environment alters glutamate transmission that results in differential responses to cues associated with psychostimulant self-administration.
    • Funding source: R15 DA035435-02; The Effects of Differential Rearing on Glutamate Homeostasis and Addiction
    • Recent publications:
      1. Garcia, E.J., Arndt, D.L., & Cain, M.E (2019). Dynamic interactions of ceftriaxone and environmental variables suppress amphetamine seeking. Brain Research, 1712, 63-72. PMCID: PMC7724651
      2. Garcia, E.J., & Cain, M.E. (in press). Isolation housing elevates amphetamine seeking independent of nucleus accumbens glutamate receptor adaptations. European Journal of Neuroscience. PMCID pending.
  2. Hedonic value: Different rearing environments early in development alter operant responding for a variety of reinforcers in adulthood. We are examining if differential rearing also alters the hedonic value of rewards. To complete these projects, we use a combination of tools including taste reactivity, behavioral pharmacology, intracranial microinfusions, immunohistochemistry, and diffusion weighted imaging. Our results indicate that isolation rearing shifts the hedonic set-point which may drive increased operant responding for rewards in isolated rats. We are now testing if this shift in set-point is due to changes in opioid receptor function and alterations in the neuronal microstructure.
    1. Funding source: P20 GM113109; Rearing-induced Plasticity and Incentive Motivation for Ethanol
    2. Recent publications:
      • Wukitsch, T.J., Brase, E.C., Moser, T.J., Kiefer, S.W., & Cain, M.E. (2020). Differential rearing alters taste reactivity to ethanol, sucrose, and quinine. Psychopharmacology, 237, 583-597. PMCID: PMC7747299.
      • Wukitsch, T.J., Moser, T.J., Brase, E.C., Kiefer, S.W., & Cain, M.E. (2020). Adolescent ethanol exposure and differential rearing environment affect taste reactivity to ethanol in rats. Alcohol, 89, 113-122.  PMCID: PMC7722211

Link to additional publications

Student Involvement

Undergraduate and graduate students working in the 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, western blots 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. 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 (mecain@ksu.edu) by students interested in more information about opportunities in her lab.

Current Graduate Students

Troy Fort, B.S 2018 Southwestern College.  Thesis project: The Contributions of Astroglial Glutamate in Mitigating Drug Relapse

Dylan Laux, B.S. 2019 North Central College. Thesis project:  Effects of Edible Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol at Low Doses on Locomotor Behavior in Adult Rats

Recent lab alumni


TJ Wukitsch, MS 2021: Research Specialist at Medical University of South Carolina Department of Neuroscience

Erik Garcia, PhD 2017: Assistant Professor at University of Nebraska Omaha. Completed postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Center for Addiction Research

David Arndt, PhD 2016: Field Medical Director at Calliditas Therapeutics. Completed postdoctoral fellow at the Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacogenomics Training Program at the University of Chicago.

Maggie Gill, PhD 2010: Associate Professor at North Central College. Completed postdoctoral training at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Undergraduate (each student listed received funding for their undergraduate research projects):

Miki Azuma, B.S. 2021: Ameri Corp member

Joanne Gomendoza, B.S. 2021: Medical student at A.T. Still University

Emma Brase, B.S. 2020: Doctoral student at University of Nebraska in the Department of Psychology

Bree Humburg, B.S. 2018: Doctoral student at University of Kentucky Department of Psychology. Completed post-baccalaureate program at the National Institute of Health.

Emily Jorgenson, BS 2016: Postdoctoral fellow at University of Alabama Birmingham. Completed doctoral degree at the University of Wyoming Department of Neuroscience

Lauren Komer, BS 2016: Doctoral student at Weill Cornell Medicine Department of Neuroscience. Completed post-baccalaureate program at the National Institute of Health.