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Biomedical Sciences

Quillen College of Medicine

Russell Brown
Russell Brown

Russell  Brown 









Additional Contact Information:

Department of Biomedical Sciences
James H. Quillen College of Medicine
PO Box 70582
Johnson City, TN 37614
Office: Room 1-36  Bldg 1
Laboratory: Room 1-36 Bldg 119
Phone: (423) 439-8523
FAX: (423) 439-2017

Delivery Address:
Russell Brown, Ph.D.
James H. Quillen College of Medicine
East Tennessee State University
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Central Receiving, #1 CR Dr.
Johnson City, TN 37614

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Curriculum Vitae


BS 1998 University of Oklahoma (Psychology and Chemistry)
MS 1995, PhD 1998 University of Kentucky (Experimental Psychology)
Postdoctoral Fellowship 1998-2000 University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada (in the labs of Drs. Bryan Kolb and Ian Whishaw)

I am a behavioral neuroscientist, with a strong emphasis in psychopharmacology. My research background actually began in the cognitive arena, analyzing underlying mechanisms of behavioral ecological mechanisms in Dr. Lynn Devenport's lab at the University of Oklahoma. This work continued in the laboratories of Dr. Phil Kraemer and Dr. Stephen Scheff at the University of Kentucky studying ontogeny of learning and memory and rodents, timing behavior in avians, as well as pharmacological approaches to improve compensation after traumatic brain injury. I have always had a strong research interest in brain plasticity and its response to experience.

At the end of my graduate school career, we began to analyze the effects of nicotine on cognitive function and in a rodent model of traumatic brain injury. I carried on this work in the laboratories of Drs. Bryan Kolb and Ian Whishaw at the University of Lethbridge, expanding my interests into the effects of nicotine on brain plasticity and compensation after brain injury.

I took a faculty position at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in August of 2000, and through a collaboration, began pursuing mechanisms of psychostimulant addiction using a model of dopamine D2 receptor supersensitivity that originated in Dr. Rich Kostrzewa's lab in the Department of Pharmacology in Quillen College of Medicine at ETSU. Although Richs interests were more directed towards Parkinsons Disease and neurotoxicity, I realized this model had potential as a model of schizophrenia. From that point on, a major research focus in our lab centered on comorbidity in behavioral disorders, especially substance abuse in schizophrenia using the neonatal quinpirole model.

Another recent focus has been to analyze the effects of methylphenidate on neural plasticity. Thus far, we have found some interesting effects of methylphenidate that are sex- and dose-dependent. We are currently beginning a series of studies to analyze the co-administration of methylphenidate and nicotine in adolescent and adult rats to analyze the effects of methyphenidate on the brains reward system.


  1. Substance abuse comorbidity in behavioral disorders
  2. Sex differences in the response to psychostimulants
  3. The consequences of drug treatment on neural plasticity
1.Substance abuse comorbidity in Schizophrenia: In this line of research, our laboratory has analyzed the behavioral and neurochemical consequences of dopamine D2-like supersensitization. The dopamine D2 receptor is increased in its sensitivity through neonatal quinpirole (a dopamine D2/D3 agonist) treatment during the first three weeks of life in a rat. This increase in sensitivity does not result in a change in receptor number, and persists throughout the animals lifetime. Over several years of work, we have found that neonatal quinpirole treatment enhances behavioral sensitization and rewarding effects of nicotine. This is especially important because approximately 80% of schizophrenics smoke cigarettes, and they smoke heavily. Ultimately, this results in a poor quality of life and shortens the average lifespan in a smoking schizophrenic. Our primary interest here is to try to identify behavioral and neurobiological targets for treating smoking in schizophrenia.

2.Consequences of Ritalin in Adolescence:    A newer line of research involves studying the behavioral and neurobiological effects of methylphenidate (trade name: Ritalin) in adolescent male and female rats. Ritalin is the most often prescribed medication for Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This disorder is also often incorrectly diagnosed. Therefore, we are not currently using a model for this area of research, but analyzing the effects of methylphenidate on behavioral sensitization and place conditioning, as well as sex differences in these responses.

3.Behavioral diagnosticians: For various collaborations, we have become behavioral diagnosticians. Essentially, we run behavioral tests for various collaborators, which runs the gamut for manipulations including chronic stress, lentivirus manipulations, cerebral ischemia, or traumatic brain injury.


Lab Technician:
Katherine (Kate) Burgess (BS ETSU 2012)
Kate is are “all everything” player for the lab. She is involved in all projects, and keeps Dr. Brown straight on all current projects running in the lab. She’s the “boss.”

Graduate Student:
W. Drew Gill (BS Davidson College 2015)
Drew has been involved in several studies, but is focusing his work towards two primary projects: Epigenetic evidence in the neonatal quinpirole model, which data look very promising, as well as getting involved in the work involved in the animal model of Major Depression in collaboration with Dr. Ordway. Drew is about finished with his qualifying examination and coursework, and is on track for defense of his dissertation in 2019. In his spare time, he’s obsessed with the cycling, the Tour de France and plays goalie (most of the time) on our adult rec soccer team.

Graduate Student:
Heath Shelton (BS ETSU 2017)
Heath is a master’s level Biomedical Sciences student and is just getting started in our laboratory, but has already been involved in several different projects. We look forward to his progress and keep up the good work!

Undergraduate Students (Fall 2017)
Charlotte Kaestner
Carrie Hall
Briana Clary
Anna Dean Pfeiffer


We are currently funded on an NIH R15 (Nicotine and roles of nicotinic receptors in a rodent model of schizophrenia (NIH 1R15DA034912). We have been fortunate enough to be funded by other extramural sources over the years, including Eli Lilly, Inc., Sepracor Pharmaceuticals, and Merz Pharmaceuticals.


1.   Brown RW, Kirby SL, Denton AR, Dose JM, Cummins ED, Drew Gill W, Burgess KC.(2017). An analysis of the rewarding and aversive associative properties of nicotine in the neonatal quinpirole model: Effects on glial cell line-derived neurotrophicfactor (GDNF). Schizophrenia Research. 2017 Mar 14. pii: S0920-9964(17):30161-5. PMID: 28314679.

2.    Peterson DJ, Gill WD, Dose JM, Hoover DB, Pauly JR, Cummins ED, Burgess KC, Brown RW. (2017). The effects of nicotine in the neonatal quinpirole rodent model of psychosis: Neural plasticity mechanisms and nicotinic receptor changes. Behavioural Brain Research. 325(Pt A):17-24. PMID: 28235586.

3.    Szebeni A, Szebeni K, DiPeri TP, Johnson LA, Stockmeier CA, Crawford JD, Chandley MJ, Hernandez LJ, Burgess KC, Brown RW, Ordway GA. (2017). Elevated DNA Oxidation and DNA Repair Enzyme Expression in Brain White Matter in Major Depressive Disorder. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 20(5):363-373. PMID: 28034960.

4.    Cummins ED, Leedy KK, Dose JM, Peterson DJ, Kirby SL, Hernandez LJ, Brown RW. (2017). The effects of adolescent methylphenidate exposure on the behavioral and brain-derived neurotrophic factor response to nicotine. Journal of Psychopharmacology.  31(1):75-85.  PMID: 27940499

5.     Kostrzewa RM, Nowak P, Brus R, Brown RW. (2016). Perinatal Treatments with the Dopamine D₂-Receptor Agonist Quinpirole Produces Permanent D₂-Receptor Supersensitization: a Model of Schizophrenia. Neurochemical Research. 41(1-2):183-92. PMID: 26547196.

6.     Danysz, W., Fink, G., McCreary, A., Tober, C., Dimpfel, W., Bizot, J. C., Kostrzewa, R. M., Brown, R. W., Jetzke, C. C., Greco, S., Jensen, A. K., Parsons, C. G. (2015). Effects of sarizotan in animal models of ADHD challenging PK-PD relationship. Journal of Neural Transmission Mar 22 Epub ahead of print. PMID:25796190

7.     Parsons, T., Brown, R. W., Pond, B. B. (accepted, European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences). Sex differences in the kinetic profiles of d- and l- methylphenidate in the brains of adult rats.

8.     Palmatier, M. I., Kellicut, M. R., Sheppard, A. B., Brown, R. W., Robinson, D. L. (2014). The incentive amplifying effects of nicotine are reduced by selective and non-selective dopamine antagonists in rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, & Behavior 126:50-62.

9.     Williams, M. T., Skelton, M. R., Longacre, I. D.,  Huggins, K. N., Maple, A. M., Vorhees, C. V., Brown, R. W. (2014). Neuronal reorganization in adult rats neonatally exposed to ()-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. In press. Toxicological Reports.

10.    Roeding, R. L., Perna, M. K., Cummins ,E. D., Peterson, D. J., Palmatier, M. I., Brown, R. W. (2014). Sex Differences in Adolescent Methylphenidate Sensitization: Effects on Glial Cell-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. Behavioural Brain Research
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