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James K. Rowlett, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychiatry
Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Harvard Medical School

Disorders of the brain affect millions of people worldwide and present daunting challenges for treatment providers. Dr. Rowlett and his colleagues in the Division of Behavioral Biology are investigating the behavioral and neurobiological effects of drugs used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, as well as drugs that are commonly abused. The overall goal of this research is to develop medications for treating these disorders that have improved therapeutic potential, yet lack significant side effects.

Anxiety disorders are among the most frequently diagnosed in psychiatric medicine. Using a multidisciplinary approach that includes collaborators in academic and industrial settings, Dr. Rowlett’s laboratory is exploring brain mechanisms, particularly GABAA receptor mechanisms, which underlie the anti-anxiety, sedative, and addictive properties of anxiolytic medications. New initiatives have begun to look into the role of GABAA receptors in disturbances of memory associated with anxiolytic drugs. The development of new drugs that retain clinical effectiveness but lack debilitating side effects may lead to improved treatment of anxiety disorders and related psychiatric illnesses.

Understanding the consequences of ingesting illicit drugs is a key to the development of improved treatments. By using advanced primate models, research in the Division of Behavioral Biology is helping to understand the neurobiological basis of cocaine, heroin, and sedative-anxiolytic addiction. The purpose of this research is to develop pharmacotherapies to treat addiction and prevent relapse to these commonly abused drugs.

Rowlett, J.K., Cook, J.M., Duke, A.N., and Platt, D.M.: Selective antagonism of GABAA receptor subtypes: An in vivo approach to exploring the therapeutic and side effects of benzodiazepine-type drugs. CNS Spectr., 10: 40-48, 2005.

Rowlett, J.K., Platt, D.M., Lelas, S., Atack, J.R., and Dawson, G.R.: Different GABAA receptor subtypes mediate the anxiolytic, abuse-related, and motor effects of benzodiazepine-like drugs in primates. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., USA, 102: 915-920, 2005.

Platt, D.M., Rowlett, J.K., Spealman, R.D.: Noradrenergic mechanisms in cocaine-induced reinstatement of drug seeking in squirrel monkeys. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther., 322: 894-902, 2007.

Rowlett, J.K., Lelas, S.: Comparison of zolpidem and midazolam self-administration under progressive-ratio schedules: Consumer demand and labor supply analyses. Exp. Clin. Psychopharmacol., 15: 328-337, 2007.

Licata, S.L., Rowlett, J.K.: Abuse and dependence liability of benzodiazepine-type drugs: GABA A receptor modulation and beyond. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav., Special Issue on GABA Receptors, in press.


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