Erika Carlson is the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Highlighted Trainee Author for May 2023. Ms. Carlson is currently a second-year PhD student in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her mentor is Dr. Kim Nixon.
The JPET article that earned her selection as a Highlighted Trainee Author is from her post-baccalaureate work at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, under the mentorship of Drs. George Koob, Leandro Vendruscolo, and Renata Marchette. The article is titled: “Heroin- and Fentanyl-induced Respiratory Depression in a Rat Plethysmography Model: Potency, Tolerance, and Sex differences” and is available at: https://doi.org/10.1124/jpet.122.001476
As a post-baccalaureate trainee, Ms. Carlson investigated the ventilatory effects of two commonly misused opioids, heroin and fentanyl, and found both drugs induced robust respiratory depression that was slightly more severe in females and subject to tolerance with chronic exposure. This work established a model and experimental design that can be used to test potential therapeutics to stimulate breathing in rats of both sexes. She also investigated the role of the dynorphin/kappa opioid receptor system in fentanyl addiction-like behaviors.
In graduate school, Ms. Carlson’s research interests have transitioned to the effects of alcohol on the neuroimmune system while maintaining a focus on sex differences. She is currently investigating the homeostatic and reparative actions of microglia, brain-resident immune cells, following perturbation by binge-like alcohol exposure. The anticipated impact of her current research is to inform alcohol use disorder therapies that target microglia, as total inactivation may actually hinder rather than aid reparative processes.
Outside of the laboratory, Erika enjoys biking, reading, and yoga. Her time is best spent with good food and good friends.