Irwin Lucki, PhD

Irwin Lucki, PhD

Irwin Lucki

Name: Irwin Lucki, PhD

Department of Primary Appointment: Pharmacology
Position: Department Chair
Title: Professor & Chair

Research Interests:
Behavioral pharmacology; Mechanism of action of antidepressant and antianxiety medications; Stress neurobiology and psychiatric disorders

Email: (link sends e-mail)
Office Phone: (301) 295-3248
Room: C2001

PubMed Listing



  • B.A.: Psychology: University of Illinois at Chicago, 1972
  • M.A.: Psychology: University of Iowa, 1976
  • Ph.D.: Biopsychology: University of Iowa, 1979
  • Postdoctoral: Neuropsychopharmacology, University of Pennsylvania, 1981

Research Techniques

Behavioral pharmacology in rats and mice related to anxiety, depression and cognition; microdialysis measurement of extracellular concentrations of monoamines in conscious rats and mice; behavioral analysis of targeted genetic mutant mice; stereotaxic surgery; effects of brain lesions and neurotoxins on behavior; central drug administration; in vitro ligand binding; histology; analysis of hormones and neurotrophins by ELISA; and HPLC analysis of brain monoamines.

Behavioral Neuropharmacology of Depression and Anxiety

The research interests of the laboratory have focused on defining the role of specific neurotransmitters in the behavioral effects of drugs used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Animal models for depression and anxiety are used to evaluate the potential efficacy of different neurotransmitter and peptide receptors for clinical therapeutic effects, to identify brain regions associated with behavioral responses to drugs, and to construct and evaluate pharmacological models for improving the efficacy of psychiatric medications. The participation of genetic and pharmacological modifications of neural circuits in depression, anxiety and neuroendocrine regulation associated with behavioral stress has specifically been investigated. Microdialysis procedures are used to measure the release of neurotransmitters in discrete regions of awake freely-moving rats or mice.  These studies provide information on the regulation of the release of neurotransmitters in different brain regions, determine environmental and behavioral conditions that alter the release of neurotransmitters, and measure the effects of drugs during behavioral performance.  Finally, studies of different inbred mouse strains or knockout mice are used to examine genetic factors associated with complex behaviors and for identifying mechanisms underlying the behavioral effects of psychotherapeutic medications.

Most recently, our research program has focused on establishing neural mechanisms through animal behavior models for the clinical use of rapid-acting antidepressants for treatment-resistant forms of depression and anxiety.   Studies have focused on glutamatergic compounds, such as ketamine, and diverse opioid compounds, such as buprenorphine, nalmefene and selective kappa opioid receptor antagonists.  Behavioral studies have shown long-lasting antidepressant-like effects for these compounds under conditions where established antidepressants are ineffective.  Pharmacological studies are examining the mechanisms underlying the unusually long duration of their behavioral effects. 

KEY WORDS:   Antidepressants; tranquilizers; stress; serotonin; opioid receptors; microdialysis; knockouts; behavior

Selected Publications

Balu D.T, Carlson G.C., Talbot K., Kazi H., Hill-Smith T.E., Easton R.M., Birnbaum M. and Lucki I.  Akt1 deficiency in schizophrenia and impairment of hippocampal plasticity and function. Hippocampus, 22:230-40, 2012.

Balu D.T., Hodes G.E., Anderson B.T., and Lucki I. Enhanced sensitivity of the MRL/MpJ mouse to the neuroplastic and behavioral effects of chronic antidepressant treatments. Neuropsychopharmacology, 34: 1764-1773, 2009.

Bechtholt A.J., Valentino R.J., and Lucki I. Overlapping and distinct brain regions associated with the anxiolytic effects of chlordiazepoxide and chronic fluoxetine. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33: 2117-2130, 2008.

Browne C.A. and Lucki I.  Antidepressant effects of ketamine: mechanisms underlying fast-acting novel antidepressants.  Frontiers in Pharmacology 4:161, 2013.

Carr G.V., Bangasser D.A., Bethea T., Young M., Valentino R.J., and Lucki I. Antidepressant-like effects of kappa-opioid receptor antagonists in Wistar Kyoto rats. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35: 752-763, 2010.

Hodes G.E., Hill-Smith T.E., Suckow R.F., Cooper T.B. and Lucki I. Sex-specific effects of chronic fluoxetine treatment on neuroplasticity and pharmacokinetics in mice.  J Pharmacol Exp Ther, 332:266-273, 2010. PMC2802485

Falcon, E., Maier, K., Robinson, S.A. and Lucki I. Effects of buprenorphine on behavioral tests for antidepressant and anxiolytic drugs in mice.  Psychopharmacology, 232:907-915, 2015.  PMC4326609

Falcon, E., Browne, C.A., Leon, R.M., Fleites, V.C., Sweeney, R., Kirby, L.G. and Lucki I. Antidepressant-like effects of buprenorphine are mediated by kappa opioid receptors. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2016, in press.

Snyder, K.P., Hill-Smith, T.E., Lucki I. and Valentino, R.J. Corticotropin-releasing factor in the rat dorsal raphe nucleus promotes different forms of behavioral flexibility depending on social stress history.  Neuropsychopharmacology, 40:2517-2525, 2015.  PMC4569959

Recent Postdoctoral Fellows:  Caroline A. Browne, Ph.D.; Edgardo Falcon, Ph.D.

Graduate Students:  Shivon A. Robinson

Lab Alumni:

Postdocs:  Bethany R. Brookshire, Georgia E. Hodes, Anita J. Bechtholt, Candace E. Hoffmann, Brian A. Hoshaw, Michelle E. Jones-London, Arthur J. Mayorga, John F. Cryan, Ashutosh Dalvi, Jean-Philippe Reneric, M.D., Peter Rittenhouse, Carol Lopez-Rubalcava, Ashish Singh, William D. Essman, Angela Allen, Randy L. Smith, Grace Rowan, Scott Wieland.

Predocs: Nancy Ho, Greg V. Carr, Darrick T. Balu, Owen Howard, James J. Crowley, Olivia F. O’Leary, Deborah A. Knobelman, Michelle L. Price, Jennifer M. Chou, Patricia M. Furlan, Christine M. Andrews, Gregg Stanwood, Lynn G. Kirby, Michael J. Detke, M.D., Ph.D., Jed Shumsky, Deborah S. Kreiss.