2014: Brendan Tunstall

American University

Brendan Tunstall is currently completing his Ph.D. in behavior, cognition, and neuroscience at American University in Washington, DC. He developed an interest in a behavioral approach to drug abuse research while completing his undergraduate studies at Monash University, Melbourne, in his home country of Australia. In his doctoral studies at American University, Brendan is learning about the experimental analysis of behavior, as well as surgical and behavioral techniques necessary for drug self-administration research. Brendan's recent publications in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, and Addiction Biology have investigated the efficacy of extinction-based techniques for reducing the ability of drug cues to direct drug seeking. Brendan has also published work related to his dissertation in progress, which involves modeling choice behavior in both drug-taking and drug-seeking situations. Preliminary data suggest that conditioned reinforcers associated with cocaine may generate an inordinate amount of cocaine-seeking behavior, which appears to be unique as compared to conditioned reinforcers associated with traditional, non-drug reinforcers. This project is exciting, as it may serve to inform a mechanism that could account for the seemingly irrational drug-seeking behavior that occurs in human drug abusers.


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