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Department of Psychological Sciences

Charles Pickens, Ph.D.

Charles Pickens, PhDContact Information

Office: BH 469

E-mail: pickens@ksu.edu

Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Approaches to Plasticity (CNAP)

Research Interests


Dr. Pickens is interested in how the brain compensates for dysfunction of one brain area by changing the strategy used to a different strategy that depends upon other brain areas. Please see https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.08.18.456813v1 for an example. Our primary focus is on thalamocortical circuits involved in this compensation and we examine this in models of several disorders affecting prefrontal cortex function, including psychostimulant- and opioid- use disorder and Fragile X syndrome (a common genetic cause of autism spectrum disorder). The lab studies these compensatory mechanisms with chemogenetic, functional neuroanatomy, brain lesions/temporary inactivations, pharmacology and behavioral approaches.

Dr. Pickens’s personal website for the lab (which contains many more details) can be found at www.pickenslab.net

Student Involvement

Dr. Pickens involves undergraduate and graduate students in all areas of his research to the highest degree that they are capable. 

For graduate students, Dr. Pickens's students have presented their research at regional and international conferences each year since their second year of graduate school and are first-authors on journal articles currently under review (see Dr. Pickens's lab website for details). Dr. Pickens is accepting applications for students for entry into his lab for Fall 2023.

For undergraduates, the students have learned skills ranging from animal handling, feeding, injections (i.p. and s.c.), stereotaxic procedures, and analysis of brains and behavioral data after the experiments. Several students have won undergraduate research awards from the department, the College of Arts and Sciences, or the University. In addition, several undergraduate students have presented their research at regional or international conferences (see the Pictures tab on the Pickens Lab website) and have been co-authors on published research articles. Lab alumni have taken post-bac positions at the National Institutes of Health, entered graduate school at Boston College and the Ohio State University, and entered medical school at the St. Louis University School of Medicine. The lab is recruiting undergraduates for Fall 2022. 

Dr. Pickens can be contacted by email at:

Lab publications (* = KSU graduate students, # = KSU undergraduates)

Pickens, C.L., Fisher, H.*, Bright, N.#, Gallo, M.#, Ray, M.H.#, Anji, A., & Kumari, M. (2016). Prior alcohol consumption does not impair go/no-go discrimination learning, but causes over-responding on go trials, in rats. Behavioural Brain Research, 312, 272-278. Pubmed

Fisher, H.*, Bright, N.#, Gallo, M.#, Pajser, A.*, & Pickens, C.L. (submitted). Effects of low-dose adolescent/early adult voluntary alcohol consumption on behavioral flexibility.

Pickens, C.L., Aurand, L.#, Hunt, J.#, & Fisher, H.* (submitted). Subchronic anesthetic ketamine injections in rats impair choice reversal learning, but have no effect on reinforcer devaluation.

Pajser, A.*, Fisher, H.*, Breen, M.#, & Pickens, C.L. (in preparation). The relationship between low-dose adolescent/early adult voluntary alcohol consumption and conditioned  fear.

Kallenberger, P.#, Pajser, A.*, Greer, M.#, Limoges, A.#, Ray, M.H.#, Fisher, H.*, & Pickens, C.L. (in preparation). Adolescent, but not adult, alcohol access leads to  faster omission contingency learning after extended abstinence.

Ray, M.H.#, & Pickens, C.L. (in preparation).  Orbitofrontal cortex lesions improve reversal learning in a novel go/no-go task.

 Representative publications (pre-KSU)

Pickens, C.L., Saddoris, M.P., Setlow, B., Gallagher, M., Holland, P.C., & Schoenbaum, G. (2003). Different roles for orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala in a reinforcer devaluation task. Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 11078-11084.

Pickens, C.L., & Holland, P.C. (2004). Conditioning and cognition. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 28, 651-661.

Pickens, C.L. (2008). A limited role for mediodorsal thalamus in devaluation tasks. Behavioral Neuroscience, 122, 659-676.

Pickens, C.L., Golden, S.A., Adams-Deutsch, T., Nair, S.G., & Shaham, Y. (2009). Long-lasting incubation of conditioned fear in rats. Biological Psychiatry, 65, 881-886.

Pickens, C.L., Adams-Deutsch, T., Nair, S.G., Navarre, B.M., Heilig, M., & Shaham, Y. (2009). Effect of pharmacological manipulations of neuropeptide Y and corticotropin-releasing factor neurotransmission on incubation of conditioned fear. Neuroscience, 164, 1398-1406.

Pickens, C.L., Airavaara, M., Theberge, F., Fanous, S., Bruce T. Hope & Shaham, Y. (2011). Neurobiology of incubation of drug craving. Trends in Neurosciences, 34, 411-420.

Pickens, C.L., Cifani, C, Navarre, B.M., Eichenbaum, H., Theberge, F.R., Baumann, M.H., Calu, D.J., & Shaham, Y. (2012). Effect of fenfluramine on yohimbine- and pellet-priming-induced reinstatement of food seeking in food-restricted female and male rats: implications for the predictive validity of the reinstatement procedure. Psychopharmacology. 221, 341-353.