Research Overview

The psychopharmacology laboratory of the Department of Psychiatry is located in the Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The primary focus of this laboratory is the development and study of rodent model systems for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A variety of assays are used for the behavioral characterization of these rodent model systems. The rodent model systems are used to study the role of the forebrain cholinergic system in AD, the role of the cholinergic system in learning and memory, the effects and effectiveness of various pharmacological agents on learning and memory and their impairments, and the interactions of forebrain cholinergic and other neurotransmitter systems with amyloid precursor protein (APP). The results of these studies have been published in a variety of journals.

The psychopharmacology laboratory is also involved in the evaluation and characterization of genetically modified mouse model systems. These transgenic model system studies have included the behavioral characterization of mice transgenic for the human vasopressin gene and the human mid-sized neurofilament (NF-M) gene. Current and planned studies for the future include the characterization of mice transgenic for the dopamine D1 receptor gene, the serotonin 5-HT2 receptor gene, and APP mutant genes.

The psychopharmacology laboratory works closely with the Alzheimer’s Disease and Schizophrenia Brain Bank of the Department of Psychiatry as well as with the Department’s neurochemistry laboratory.

Behavioral Assays Performed by the Psychopharmacology Laboratory

Dr. Haroutunian’s laboratory has extensive experience in behavioral studies of rodents and the behavioral characterization of genetically altered mice. During the past 10 years numerous behavioral characterization, learning and memory, and psychopharmacological studies have been conducted in rats and mice. The following behavioral assays are regularly performed in the psychopharmacology laboratory.

  • Locomotor activity
  • Climbing behavior (mice only)
  • Stereotypic behaviors
  • Acoustic startle
  • Open field behavior
  • Light / dark chamber crossings
  • Gustatory neophobia
  • Foot-shock sensitivity / Flinch-jump thresholds
  • Reflexive behaviors (righting, mid-air righting, tactile orientation, grip-strength, negative geotaxis, limb placement)
  • Conditioned fear / auditory stimuli
  • Contextual fear
  • Foot-shock-induced immobility
  • Long- and short-term habituation
  • Passive avoidance learning
  • Active avoidance learning
  • Radial maze – spatial learning
  • Water maze – spatial learning
  • Water maze – matching to sample learning
  • Water maze – delayed matching to sample learning

Contact Us

V. Haroutunian
Tel: 718-584-9000 ext 6082
Fax: 718-365-9622 

Bronx VA Medical Center