In This Section

Brian Kangas

Current position

  • Director, Cognition Biology Laboratory, McLean Hospital
  • Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School


  • BA, Psychology, Southern Illinois University, 2000-2003
  • MS, Behavior Analysis, University of North Texas, 2003-2005
  • PhD, Psychology, University of Florida, 2005-2009

ASPET member since: 2011

Administrative Accomplishments

Beyond research and teaching, I have been active in administrative pursuits that focus on science communication and fostering the development of the next generation of scientists.  Perhaps my most important accomplishment was the creation and development in 2014 of a post-baccalaureate training program in preclinical pharmacology at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School. This fully paid 2-year internship transformed a typical research assistant position into a structured mentor-based curriculum that includes journal clubs, data shares, and opportunities to present and publish work stemming from the projects the interns gained independence conducting. During the last 8 years of this program, successful interns have moved on to top medical, veterinary, and graduate schools.

Research Areas

My research area focuses on the development and empirical validation of animal models and apparatus designed to assay complex behavioral processes relevant to addiction, pain perception, chronic stress, and neuropsychiatric disorders.  I am currently leading a research program focusing on diverse pursuits in behavioral biology funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Mental Health, biopharmaceutical industry, Department of Defense, and NASA. My research efforts are generally divided between two drug categories—drugs of abuse and candidate therapeutics. Because the effects of abused drugs on cognition are arguably some of the most important and least understood, one aim of my work is to gain a better understanding of how cannabinoids, stimulants, opioids, and psychedelics affect learning, memory, vigilance, and other cognition-related behavior. A second aim of my research is to design experimental techniques to evaluate the medicinal value and potential side effects of novel therapeutics on various aspects of cognitive function. This work, I believe, can serve as important preclinical predictors of a novel pharmacotherapy’s safety.

ASPET Activities

  • Behavioral Pharmacology Division
    • Poster Judge (2014-2022)
    • Programming Subcommittee (2015-2016)
    • Communications Officer (2014-2016)
    • Postdoctoral Representative (2013)

Other Society Memberships/Activities

  • Behavioral Pharmacology Society
  • Association for Behavior Analysis
  • American Psychological Association (Div. 25 and 28)
  • International Study Group Investigating Drugs as Reinforcers 



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