Taffe Laboratory

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The Taffe laboratory operates within the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. This follows an initial 18 years at The Scripps Research Institute. Our work is on issues related to addictive drug disorders, using animal models. 

Current projects in the laboratory focus on the substituted cathinones (including 3,4-methylnedioxypyrovalerone; MDPV, mephedrone and methylone), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or "Ecstasy"), methamphetamine, cannabis, nicotine and opioids.

Compulsive Drug Use, Addiction and Dependence

Addiction to several classes of psychoactive drugs, from opioids such as oxycodone and heroin, to cannabis, to nicotine, to psychomotor stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine and novel cathinone derivatives ("bath salts") interferes with numerous aspects of personal health, vocational performance, interpersonal relationships and/or financial well being. Behavioral consequences of substance use disorders, and the illicit drug trade, also strain legal and emergency medical resources throughout the US. Current therapeutic approaches for addiction are less than completely effective and additional research is necessary to identify new avenues for preventing and ameliorating the consequences of drug use. 

Research in the Taffe Laboratory [ PubMed ] focuses on the effects of recreational or abused drugs on the brain and the resulting changes in behavior. We have a current interest in the compulsive use of drugs with a focus on factors involved in the transition from casual to repetitive drug use. Additional studies focus on the acute and lasting impact of recreational drug exposure on behavior and physiology, including the lasting consequences of drug exposure during the adolescent interval.

Neuropharmacology of Drug Addiction

Substituted Cathinone "Bath Salts": A diverse array of new stimulant drugs based on the cathinone core structure emerged on worldwide markets starting around 2008-2009. Early entities included drugs such as 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC, mephedrone), 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone (methylone). Some exhibit neuropharmacological actions similar to MDMA, some are more similar to cocaine and some are more similar to traditional amphetamine stimulants such as methamphetamine. There are now over a dozen cathinone entities which have been placed under Schedule I control by the US DEA, and more of them may follow in an attempt to evade legal control. Our goal with the cathinone project is to determine how the pharmacological differences between these entities confer different risks for compulsive use and for physiological disruption of a life-threatening nature.

Khom, S., Nguyen, J.D., Vandewater, S.A., Grant, Y., Roberto, M., and Taffe, M.A. Self-administration of entactogen psychostimulants dysregulates GABA and kappa opioid receptor signaling in the central nucleus of the amygdala of female Wistar rats. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 2021, Dec 16, 15(780500):1-13. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2021.780500. [ Publisher Site ][ PubMed ]

Javadi-Paydar, M., Harvey, E.L., Grant, Y., Vandewater, S.A., Creehan, K.M., Nguyen, J.D., Dickerson, T.J., and Taffe, M.A. Binge-like Acquisition of α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (α-PVP) Self-Administration in Female Rats. Psychopharmacology, 2018 August, 235(8):2447-2457. [Epub ahead of print] [ Publisher Link ][ Free Viewable Link ][ PubMed ]

Aarde, S.M., Creehan, K.M., Vandewater, S.A., Dickerson, T.J. and Taffe, M.A. In vivo potency and efficacy of the novel cathinone α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone and 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone: Self-administration and locomotor stimulation in male rats. Psychopharmacology, 2015, 232:3045-3055. [ Publisher Site ][ PubMed ]

Creehan, K.M., Vandewater, S.A. and Taffe, M.A. Intravenous self-administration of mephedrone, methylone and MDMA in female rats. Neuropharmacology, 2015, 92:90-97. [ Publisher Site ][ PubMed ]


Current work in the Taffe Laboratory is supported by USPHS Grant R01 DA042211-06, the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (T33IR6653) and the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. Past work in the Taffe Laboratory has been supported by USPHS Grants R01 DA035281 , R01 DA042211, R01 DA024705R01 DA035482 , R01 DA024105, R01 AA016807, P20 DA024194, P60 AA006420, R01 DA18418, R21 AA013972, R01 DA13390, R01 MH61692 and P30 MH62261.