Research in Dr. Serafine’s behavioral pharmacology laboratory focuses on the different factors that contribute to individual differences in vulnerability to drug abuse. To investigate these factors, Dr. Serafine uses preclinical models to investigate how factors such as age, sex and diet impact sensitivity to drugs of abuse like cocaine. Drug sensitivity is assessed using behavioral pharmacological models including unconditioned behavior (e.g., locomotion) and more complex behaviors using classical and operant conditioning (e.g., conditioned place preference, drug discrimination, or intravenous self-administration). Students in the laboratory receive hands on training on how to conduct behavioral experiments that help answer important questions about abuse vulnerability. Dr. Serafine’s current research interests include studying how diets high in fat or sugar change individual sensitivity to cocaine and other drugs that act on dopamine systems. Dr. Serafine is also interested in considering differential impact of age, sex and diet on sensitivity to prescription drugs such as antidepressants and drugs used to treat obesity.