|Dr. Brian Kangas is an Associate Psychobiologist at McLean Hospital and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. After training in the experimental analysis of behavior at Southern Illinois University and the University of North Texas, he earned his Ph.D. at the University of Florida under the tutelage of Dr. Marc Branch. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Behavioral Biology Laboratory at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kangas has served on the editorial board of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, is the recipient of several research awards including the B. F. Skinner New Researcher Award from the American Psychological Association, and has grant funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Kangas teaches operant principles to undergraduates, graduate students, and medical students in a course on behavioral pharmacology at Harvard originally founded by Drs. Peter Dews and Bill Morse. His research program focuses on the development and empirical validation of animal models and apparatus to assay complex behavioral processes relevant to pain perception, addiction, and other neuropsychiatric conditions.|
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States with recent surveys estimating over 22 million current (past month) users. However, there is growing acceptance of its recreational use, evident by successful efforts to decriminalize and, in some states like Colorado, legalize use. In addition, although the full medicinal value of cannabis is not yet understood, such cannabinergic effects are of known benefit in the palliative care of anorectic patients undergoing chemotherapy or suffering debilitating conditions such as AIDS or Alzheimer?s disease. This has led to a broadening interest in the clinical utility of drugs that target the endocannabinoid system. In this regard, however, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is generally acknowledged to produce some unwanted effects in humans. These include deleterious effects on several types of complex behavior, especially related to learning, memory, and vigilance. Employing operant techniques in nonhuman primates such as drug discrimination, self-administration, nociception assays, and touchscreen-based models of learning and memory, this presentation will highlight recent advances in the understanding of THC?s effects on complex behavioral processes and, as well, efforts to develop drugs that engage the cannabinergic system and retain medicinal value, yet produce lesser adverse psychoactive effects.