Developmental Neuropharmacology Laboratory

Matthew McMurray, Ph.D.

Welcome to the Developmental Neuropharmacology Laboratory!

The McMurray Lab is interested in how early life exposure to drugs (including medications, drugs of abuse, or stress) impact the developing brain, and how we might use this knowledge to prevent abnormal development or reverse an altered developmental trajectory. While much research has focused on the neurobiological substrates contributing to pathological behaviors, few studies take a developmental approach. This is an extremely limiting tactic, as initial exposure to medications or drugs of abuse can occur at many time-points throughout the lifespan, from in utero to adulthood, and the short- and long-term consequences of chemical exposure depend in part on the developmental period of exposure.

To study these questions, the McMurray lab focuses on the intersection of pharmacology, development, and cognitive neuroscience. To determine how early life exposure to drugs causes long term alterations in cognitive behaviors and their underlying neurocircuitry, we combine rodent behavioral studies employing sophisticated cognitive paradigms with systems-level neuroscience and biochemical approaches. Together, these techniques allow complex behaviors to be dissected into component parts and the identification of causal bidirectional relationships between behavior and specific brain structural/functional patterns following early chemical exposure. This research program has clinical implications on the use of medications in developing age groups and on the diagnosis and treatment of mental health and drug use disorders in children and adolescents. Additionally, our research has basic implications on how we understand concepts such as decision-making and pharmacology across the lifespan at both behavioral and neural levels.

Current Research Directions Include:

1)     Longitudinal effects of adolescent alcohol consumption

2)     Longitudinal effects of adolescent SSRI exposure

3)     Developmental neurophysiology of decision-making

Available Positions