Cunningham LaboratoryAbout » Laboratories


  • Fox, Robert G., BS

    Robert Fox
    Senior Research Associate

    Lab: Cunningham
    Phone: 409.747.7061


    Bob is a Senior Research Associate in Dr. Kathryn Cunningham's laboratory in the Center for Addiction Research, where he utilizes preclinical models of addiction to evaluate candidate medications to suppress relapse. As a long term member of the lab, Bob provides insight in multiple levels of research design, conduct, analysis and interpretation

    • B.S., 1993, University of Houston - Clear Lake, Houston, Texas

    B.A. Nic Dhonnchadha, R.G. Fox, S.J. Stutz, K.C. Rice, K.A. Cunningham. Blockade of the 5-HT2A receptor suppresses cue-evoked reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior in a rat self-administration model. Behavioral Neuroscience. 2009 Apr;123(2):382-96. PMCID: PMC3830454.

    K.A. Cunningham, R.G. Fox, N.C. Anastasio, M.J. Bubar, F.G. Moeller, S.R. Gilbertson, S. Rosenzweig-Lipson. Selective serotonin 5-HT(2C) receptor activation suppresses the reinforcing efficacy of cocaine and sucrose but differentially affects the incentive-salience value of cocaie- vs. sucrose-associated cues. Neuropharmacology. 2011 Sep:61(3):513-23.

    K.A. Cunningham, N.C. Anastasio, R.G. Fox, S.J. Stutz, M.J. Bubar, S.E. Swinford, C.S. Watson, S.R. Gilbertson, K.C. Rice, S. Rosenzweig-Lipson, F.G. Moeller. Synergism between a serotonin 5-HT2A receptor antagonist and 5-HT2C receptor agonist suggests new pharmacotherapeutics for cocaine addiction. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. 2013 Jan 16;4(1):110-21. PMCID: PMC3547488.

    Anastasio NC, Liu S, Maili L, Swinford SE, Lane SD, Fox RG, Hamon SC, Nielsen DA, Cunningham KA, Moeller FG. Variation within the serotonin (5-HT) 5-HT2C receptor system aligns with vulnerability to cocaine cue reactivity. Transl Psychiatry. 2014 Mar 11;4:e369. doi:10.1038/tp.2013.131.PMID:24618688.

    N.C. Anastasio, E.C. Stoffel, R.G. Fox, M.J. Bubar, K.C. Rice, F.G. Moeller, K.A. Cunningham. Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) 5-HT(2A) receptor: association with inherent and cocaine-evoked behavioral disinhibition in rats. Beharioural Pharmacology. 2011 Jun;22(3):248-61.

    D.A. Nielsen, W. Huang, S.C. Harmon, L. Maili, B.M. Witkin, R.G. Fox, K.A. Cunningham, F.G. Moeller. Forced abstinence from cocaine self-administration is associated with DNA methylation changes in myelin genes in the corpus callosum: a preliminary study. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2012;3:60.

    N.C. Anastasio S.R. Gilbertson, M.J. Bubar, A. Agarkov, S.J. Stutz, Y. Jeng, N.M. Bremer, T.D. Smith, R.G. Fox, S.E. Swinford, P.K. Seitz, M.N. Charendoff, J.W. Craft Jr., F.M. Laezza, C.S. Watson, J.M. Briggs, K.A. Cunningham. Peptide Inhibitors Disrupt the Serotonin 5-HT2C Receptor Interaction with Phosphatase and Tensin Homolog to Allosterically Modulate Cellular Signaling and Behavior. Journal of Neuroscience. 2013 Jan 23;33(4):1615-30.

    N.C. Anastasio, S.J. Stutz, R.G. Fox, R.M. Sears, R.B. Emeson, R.J. DiLeone, R.T. O'Neil, L.H. Fink, D. Li, T.A. Green, F.G. Moeller, and K.A. Cunningham. Functional Status of the Serotonin 2C Receptor (5-HT2CR) Drives Interlocked Phenotypes that Precipitate Relapse-Like Behaviors in Cocaine Dependence. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014 Jan;39(2):370-82. doi:10/1038/npp.2013.199. PMID:23939424.

  • Garcia, Erik, PhD

    Garcia Erik17      Postdoctoral Fellow
          Lab: Cunningham


    Dr. Erik Garcia grew up in Denver, Colorado and earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Colorado State University in 2010. Interested in the neurobiological and environmental determinants of substance use, he entered the graduate program at Kansas State University. There, he determined that rodents reared in environmental enrichment are protected from drug seeking after short and prolonged abstinence. He earned his doctorate in 2017. Soon after his dissertation defense, Erik joined the laboratory of Dr. Kathryn A. Cunningham to further advance his understanding of the neuropharmacology of substance use disorders. Erik was a postdoctoral mentee on the T32 Training Program, and his research focuses on the neuroeconomics of drug reinforcement.


    B.S., 2010, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

    M.S., 2014, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas

    Ph.D., 2017, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas


    2018, Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research, NIDA (R01-DA038446-S1)

    2017, Postdoctoral Mentee, NIDA T32 Training Program (T32 DA007287)

    2016, American Psychological Dissertation Research Award

  • Merritt, Christina

    Christina Merritt
    Doctoral Student
    Lab: Cunningham


    Christina grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She then went on to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University where she published in three peer-reviewed research journals and graduated magna cum laude with a GPA of 3.8. Christina was awarded the Presidential Scholarship Award upon being accepted into the Pharmacology and Toxicology graduate program at UTMB in 2016, and she is conducting her Ph.D. dissertation research under the mentorship of Dr. Kathryn A. Cunningham. Christina is currently supported by the Jeane B. Kempner Predoctoral Award, and her research is focused on elucidating mechanism(s) in which serotonin 2C receptors (5-HT2CR) regulate neurocircuitry critical to the rewarding properties of opioids.

    B.S. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

  • Mifflin, Randy, PhD

    Research Associate III

    Lab: Cunningham
    Phone: 409-747-7063
  • Pazdrak, Konrad, PhD

    Research Associate III
    Lab: Cunningham
    Phone: 409-747-7063
  • Price, Amanda, BS

    Amanda Price 
    Graduate Assistant
    : Cunningham
    : 409.772.9659
    : M.D./Ph.D. Combined Degree Program - Neuroscience Graduate Program


    Amanda grew up in Houma, Louisiana. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University in 2012, where she was honored with the Louisiana State University Chancellor's Future Leaders in Research award for 2008-2012, the Louisiana State University Medalist award for graduating with a 4.0 grade point average in 2012, and the Louisiana State University Distinguished Communicator Award in 2012. Amanda entered the UTMB M.D./Ph.D. Combined Degree Program in 2012, and she is conducting her Ph.D. dissertation research in the Neuroscience Graduate Program under the mentorship of Dr. Kathryn A. Cunningham. Amanda is a mentee of the NIDA T32 Training Program, and her research is focused on elucidating the cortical neurocircuitry of impulsivity and cocaine cue reactivity

    • B.S., 2012, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    • 2012, UTMB Minnie & Ward Savage Presidential Scholarship,
    • 2014, UTMB Truman G. Blocker, Jr. Scholar Fellowship in Biomedical Research,
    • 2014, Predoctoral Mentee, NIDA T32 Training Program (T32 DA007287),

    Broussard, T.C., Kober, M.J., Pakhomova, S., Neau, D.B., Price, A.E., Champion, T.S., and Waldrop, G.W. (2013) The three-domensional structure of the biotin carboxylase-biotin carboxyl carrier protein complex of E. coli acetyl-CoA carbosylase. Structure 21(4):650-657.

    Broussard, T.C., Price, A.E., Laborde, S.M., and Waldrop, G.L. (2013) Complex formation and regulation of Escherichia coli acetyl-CoA carboxylase. Biochemistry 52(19):3346-3357.

  • Stutz, Sonja, BS

    Lead Research Project Manager

    Lab: Cunningham
    Phone: 409.772.3608


    Sonja works for Dr. Kathryn Cunningham in the Center for Addiction Research. As Research Project Manger, she is responsible for facilitating and coordinating the use of the Rodent In Vivo Assessment Core. In addition to her role as core manager, Sonja assists with multiple behavioral and immunohistological projects in Dr. Cunningham's laboratory.

    • B.S., 2004, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois

    Anastasio NC, Stutz SJ, Fox RG, Sears RM, Emeson RB, DiLeone RJ, O'Neil RT, Fink LH, Li D, Green TA, Moeller FG and Cunningham KA (2014) Functional status of the serotonin 5-HT2C receptor (5-HT2CR) drives interlocked phenotypes that precipitate relapse-like behaviors in cocaine dependence. Neuropsychopharmacology 39(2):370-82.

    Anastasio NC, Gilbertson SR, Bubar MJ, Seitz PK, Agarkov A, Jeng Y, Bremer NM, Smith TD, Stutz SJ, Fox RG, Charendoff MN, Craft JW, Watson CS, Briggs JM and Cunningham KA (2013) Peptide inhibitors disrupt the serotonin 5-HT2C receptor interaction with phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN) to allosterically modulate cellular signaling and behavior. Journal of Neuroscience 33(4):1615-30.

    Yan J, Mei FC, Cheng H, Lao DH, Hu Y, Wei J, Patrikeev I, Hao D, Stutz SJ, Dineley KT, Motamedi M, Hommel JD, Cunningham KA, Chen J and Cheng X (2013) Enhanced leptin sensitivity reduced adiposity and improved glucose homeostatsis in mice lackin exchange protein directly activated by cyclic AMP isoform 1. Mol Cell Biol 33(5):918-26.

    Cunningham KA, Anastasio NC, Fox RG, Stutz SJ, Bubar MJ, Swinford SE, Watson CS, Gilbertson SR, Rice KC, Rosenweig-Lipson S and Moeller FG (2012) Synergism between a serotonin 5-HT2A receptor (5-HT2AR) antagonist and 5-HT2CR agonist suggests new pharmacotherapeutics for cocaine addiction. ACS Chemical Neuroscience 4(1):110-21.

    Bubar MJ, Stutz SJ and Cunningham KA (2011) 5-HT2C Receptors localize to dopamine and GABA neurons in the rat mesoaccumbens pathway. PLoS ONE 6(6):e20508.

    Cunningham KA, Fox RG, Anastasio NC, Bubar MJ, Stutz SJ, Moeller FG, Gilberson SR and Rosenweig-Lipson S (2011) Selective serotonin 5-HT2C receptor activation suppresses the reinforcing efficacy of cocaine and sucrose but differentially affects the incentive-salience of cocaine- vs. sucrose-associated cues. Neuropharmacology 61(3):513-23.

    Anastasio NC, Lanfranco MF, Bubar MJ, Seitz PK, Stutz SJ, McGinnis AG, Watson CS and Cunningham KA (2010) Serotonin (5-HT) 2C receptor (5-HT2CR) protein expression is enriched in synaptosomal and postsynaptic compartments of rat cortex. Journal of Neurochemistry 113(6):1504-1515.

    NicDhonnachadha BA, Fox RG, Stutz SJ, Rice KC and Cunningham KA (2009) Blockade of the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor suppresses cue-evoked reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behavior in a rat self-administration model. Behav Neurosci 123(2):382-96.

    Sell SL, Craft SM, Seitz PK, Stutz SJ, Cunningham KA and Thomas ML (2008) Estradiol-sertraine synergy in ovariectomized rats. Psychoneuroendocrinology 33(8):1051-60.

    Shank EJ, Seitz PK, Stutz SJ and Cunningham KA (2007) Selective ablation of GABA neurons in the ventral tegmental area increases spontaneous locomotor activity. Behavioral Neuroscience 121:1224-1233.

    Canal CE, Stutz SJ and Gold PE (2005) Glucose injections into the dorsal hippocampus or dorsolateral striatum of rats prior to T-maze training: modulation of learning rates and strategy selection. Learn Mem. 12(4):367-74.

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