Welcome to the Gipson Lab

We are housed in the Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences in the College of Medicine at UK. The focus of the lab is to identify novel neurobiological and behavioral mechanisms to guide the treatment of addiction, including glutamatergic, dopaminergic, neuroimmune, and ovarian hormone mechanisms underlying addiction to various drugs of abuse during young adulthood and during the female reproductive transition of menopause. Projects focus on nicotine, heroin, and oxycodone/cocaine co-use, utilizing both in vivo and in vitro methodologies to study rapid alterations in synaptic plasticity (measured as changes in dendritic spines or AMPA/NMDA current ratios using whole cell patch clamp electrophysiology) during or immediately following behavior (specifically, during self-administration and reinstatement of drug seeking).  We also study microglia-neuron interactions during nicotine consumption and seeking. To date, our work has revealed novel neurobiological mechanisms of drug use, and has the potential to contribute to the development of novel therapeutic options aimed at reversing drug-induced alterations and thus improve drug use cessation outcomes. This work has resulted in translational collaborations to examine clinical efficacy of pharmacotherapeutics in promoting drug use cessation.


We are currently funded by 3 grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH):

  1. R01 DA046526 (Gipson-Reichardt, PI; 09/30/2019-08/31/2024). Neuroinflammatory and glutamatergic mechanisms of nicotine seeking.
  2. R21 DA055879 (Gipson-Reichardt, PI; 09/27/2022-08/30/2024). Contributions of Progestins Independently and Interactively with Contraceptive Estrogen to Nicotine Use
  3. R33 DA049130 (Gipson-Reichardt, MPI; Stoops, MPI;  09/20/2020-08/31/2025). Glutamatergic mechanisms in opioid and cocaine co-use.

We are also funded by a Faculty Pilot award from the Substance Use Priority Research Area (SUPRA):

“Evaluating the neurobiological mechanisms of suvorexant in reducing fentanyl withdrawal and relapse”



Recent News

New publication! Maher et al., 2022

Maher, Kipp, Leyrer-Jackson, Khatri, Bondy, Martinez, Beckmann, Hinds, Bimonte-Nelson, & Gipson (2022). Ovarian Hormones Regulate Nicotine Consumption and Accumbens Glutamatergic Plasticity in Female Rats. eNeuro, Jun 27;9(3):ENEURO.0286-21.2022. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0286-21.2022.


Women report greater cigarette cravings during the menstrual cycle phase with higher circulating levels of 17β-estradiol (E2), which is metabolized to estrone (E1). Both E2 and E1 bind to estrogen receptors (ERs), which have been highly studied in the breast, uterus, and ovary. Recent studies have found that ERs are also located on GABAergic medium spiny neurons (MSNs) within the nucleus accumbens core (NAcore). Glutamatergic plasticity in NAcore MSNs is altered following nicotine use; however, it is unknown whether estrogens impact this neurobiological consequence. To test the effect of estrogen on nicotine use, we ovariectomized (OVX) female rats that then underwent nicotine self-administration acquisition and compared them to ovary-intact (sham) rats. The OVX animals then received either sesame oil (vehicle), E2, or E1+E2 supplementation for 4 or 20 d before nicotine sessions. While both ovary-intact and OVX females readily discriminated levers, OVX females consumed less nicotine than sham females. Further, neither E2 nor E1+E2 increased nicotine consumption back to sham levels following OVX, regardless of the duration of the treatment. OVX also rendered NAcore MSNs in a potentiated state following nicotine self-administration, which was reversed by 4 d of systemic E2 treatment. Finally, we found that E2 and E1+E2 increased ERα mRNA in the NAcore, but nicotine suppressed this regardless of hormone treatment. Together, these results show that estrogens regulate nicotine neurobiology, but additional factors may be required to restore nicotine consumption to ovary-intact levels.


ACNP 2022

Another successful ACNP this year, in Phoenix AZ!

New Grant Awarded!

We were awarded a new R21 grant from NIDA, titled ” Contributions of Progestins Independently and Interactively with Contraceptive Estrogen to Nicotine Use”. A collaboration with Drs. Heather Bimonte-Nelson (ASU) and Josh Beckmann (UK)!