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Gregory I. Elmer Ph.D.

Academic Title: Professor
Primary Appointment: Psychiatry
Secondary Appointments: Pharmacology
Location: MPRC, A-11
Phone: (410) 402-7576
Fax: (410) 706-6066

Personal History:

  • B.S. in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore

Research Interests:

High rates of co-morbidity between schizophrenia and drug use suggest potential common underlying mechanisms, which may predispose individuals to either or both clinical states. The primary objective of Greg Elmer, Ph.D. and his laboratory is to better understand the behavior neurogenetics of drug abuse and schizophrenia and the neurobiological factors integral to the co-morbidity of these psychiatric illnesses. Both afflictions, drug addiction and schizophrenia, demonstrate significant heritable vulnerabilities. The strategies we use to investigate brain-behavior relationships that might explain mechanisms of vulnerability to either or both disease states include behavior genetics, behavior pharmacology, large-scale gene expression analysis and data mining. Examples of specific behavioral pharmacology techniques include brain stimulation reward and i.v. drug self-administration to investigate specific components thought to be involved in drug abuse. In addition, we have developed a major initiative to investigate the neurobiological events involved in tolerance to opiates using large-scale gene expression profiling. We use models of behavioral organization in novel environments, sensorimotor processing, reward processing, and learning and memory paradigms to investigate specific components thought to be involved in the neuropsychopharmacological effects of drugs and in schizophrenia. Reward learning and the neurobiology of reward is a specific area of overlap since both drug abuse and schizophrenia present with aberrant reward behaviors. By establishing parallel lines of investigation, we hope to determine genetic and neurobiological areas of confluence that will provide a better understanding of drug abuse and schizophrenia co-morbidity.

Lab Techniques and Equipment:

Drug self-administration, brain stimulation reward, sensorimotor gating, exploratory behavior, gene expression


Brown, P.L., Shepard, P.D., Elmer, G.I., Stockman, S., McFarland, R., Mayo, C.L., Cadet, J.L., Krasnova, I.N., Greenwald, M., Schoonover, C., Vogel, M.W. (2012) Altered spatial learning, cortical plasticity and hippocampal anatomy in a neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia-related endophenotypes. European Journal of Neuroscience 36(6):2773-2781.

Pocivavsek, A., Wu, H.-Q., Elmer, G.I., Bruno, J.P., Schwarcz, R. (2012) Pre- and postnatal exposure to kynurenine causes cognitive deficits in adulthood. European Journal of Neuroscience 35(10):1605-1612.

Ecke, L.E., Elmer, G.I., Suto, N. (2012) Cocaine self-administration is not dependent upon mesocortical α1 noradrenergic signaling. Neuroreport 23(5):325-330.

Pocivavsek, A., Wu, H.-Q., Potter, M.C., Elmer, G.I., Pellicciari, R., Schwarcz, R. (2011) Fluctuations in endogenous kynurenic acid control hippocampal glutamate and memory. Neuropsychopharmacology 36(11):2357-2367.

Danna, C.L., Elmer, G.I. (2010) Disruption of conditioned reward association by typical and atypical antipsychotics. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior  96(1):40-47.

Potter, M.C., Elmer, G.I., Bergeron, R., Albuquerque, E.X., Guidetti, P., Wu, H.-Q., Schwarcz, R. (2010) Reduction of endogenous kynurenic acid formation enhances extracellular glutamate, hippocampal plasticity, and cognitive behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology 35(8):1734-1742.

Hazelton, J.L., Balan, I., Elmer, G.I., Kristian, T., Rosenthal, R.E., Krause, G., Sanderson,  T.H., Fiskum, G. (2010) Hyperoxic reperfusion after global cerebral ischemia promotes inflammation and long-term hippocampal neuronal death.  Journal of Neurotrauma  27(4):753-762.

Elmer, G.I., Pieper, J.O., Hamilton, L.R., Wise, R.A. (2010) Qualitative differences between C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice in morphine potentiation of brain stimulation reward and intravenous self-administration. Psychopharmacology 208(2):309-321.

Tapocik, J.D., Letwin, N., Mayo, C.L., Frank, B., Luu, T., Achinike, O., House, C., Williams, R., Elmer, G.I., Lee, N.H. (2009) Identification of candidate genes and gene networks specifically associated with analgesic tolerance to morphine. Journal of Neuroscience 29(16):5295-5307.

Elmer, G.I., Kafkafi, N. (2009) Drug discovery in psychiatric illness: mining for gold.  Schizophrenia Bulletin 35(2):287-292.

Willmore, C.B., Krall, D.M., Spears, F.M., Makriyannis, A., Elmer, G.I.  (2009) Cognitive effects of psychotomimetic drugs in rats discriminating number cues. Psychopharmacology 206(4):653-664.

Kafkafi, N., Yekutieli, D., Elmer, G.I. (2009) A data mining approach to in vivo classification of psychopharmacological drugs. Neuropsychopharmacology, 34(3):607-23.

Gao, X-M., Elmer, G.I., Adams-Huet, B., Tamminga, C.A. (2009) Social memory in mice: Disruption with an NMDA antagonist and reversal with antipsychotics. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. 92(2):236-42.

Kafkafi, N., Yekutieli, D., Yarowsky, P, Elmer, G.I. (2008) Pattern Array: a novel approach for data mining in behavioral tests. Behavioral Neuroscience, 122(4):777-87.

Reiner, A., Yekutieli, D., Letwin, N.E., Elmer, G.I., Lee, N.H., Kafkafi, N., Benjamini, Y. (2007) Associating quantitative behavioral traits with gene expression in the brain: searching for diamonds in the hay. Bioinformatics, 23:2239-46.

Letwin, N.E., Kafkafi, N., Benjamini, Y., Mayo, C., Frank, B., Lee, N.H., Elmer, G.I. (2006) Combined application of behavior genetics and microarray analysis to identify regional expression themes and gene-behavior associations. Journal of Neuroscience, 26:5277-87.

Kafkafi, K. and Elmer, G.I. (2005) Texture of locomotor path; A replicable characterization of a complex behavioral phenotype. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 4:431-443.

Kafkafi N., Benjamini, Y., Sakov, A., Elmer, G.I. Golani I. (2005) Genotype x environment interactions in mouse behavior: A way out of the problem. Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, 22;102(:4619-24.

Kafkafi, N. and Elmer, G.I. (2005) Activity density in the open field: a measure for differentiating the effect of psychostimulants within and across mouse genotypes. Pharmacology, Biochemi. Behavior, 80(2):239-49.

Elmer, G.I., Pieper, J.O., Levy, J., Rubenstein, M., Grandy, D.K., Wise, R.A. (2005) Brain stimulation reward and the reward potentiating effects of morphine are disrupted in dopamine D2 receptor knockout mice. Psychopharmacology 182(1):33-44.

Koenig, J,I, Elmer, G.I., Shepard, P., Lee, P., Mayo, C., Joy, B., Hercher, E., Brady, D. (2005) Stress during gestation produces alterations in adult rat behavior: Relevance to schizophrenia. Behavioral Brain Research, 156(2):251-61.

Elmer, G.I, Sydnor, J., Guard, H., Hercher, E., Vogel, M.W. (2004) Neurodevelopmental model of altered sensory gating in rats treated prenatally with the antimitotic AraC. Psychopharmacology, 170:108-14.