Research

Dr. Khokhar’s research aims to understand the mechanisms underlying co-occurring schizophrenia and substance use disorders, using a variety of behavioural, pharmacological and translational neuroimaging techniques. In addition, his research interests also include assessing the long-term effects of adolescent drug (e.g., cannabis) use, and how these effects might contribute to the risk for serious mental illness and addiction. Lastly, Dr. Khokhar is also very interested in profiling the pharmacokinetic parameters related to different routes of exposure to cannabis, as well as the impact of development and sex on these profiles.

Research Approaches

Behavioural Testing

We employ a variety of behavioural paradigms in rodents (e.g., operant conditioning, conditioned avoidance, self-administration) to investigate facets that contribute to substance use in animal models of serious mental illness. Additionally, we also assess cognitive and psychiatric phenotypes (e.g., object recognition memory, fear conditioning, pre-pulse inhibition) to assess the impact of drug use on these domains during development and in adulthood.

Chemogenetics

Using acute and chronic modulation of designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs, we dissect and manipulate brain circuits that contribute to co-occurring mental health and addictive disorders (photo credit: Addgene).

Electrophysiology

Using custom-designed multi-electrode arrays to measure local field potentials from multiple brain regions, we use this method to interrogate neural circuitry as well as the effects of therapeutic agents on neural connectivity.

Magnetic Resonance Based Imaging

To advance the translational aspects of our work, we make use of preclinical magnetic resonance imaging (e.g., functional connectivity and MR spectroscopy) to assess the neural correlates of the behavioural measures assessed in our laboratory.