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Rachel Smith

BCN Area Coordinator
Assistant Professor
Areas of Speciality
  • Affective Science
  • Behavioral & Cellular Neuroscience
  • (979) 458-0240
  • ILSB 3151B
Professional Links
Office Hours, Spring 2024
Tuesdays 3:00-4:00 PM (By Zoom)
Accepting Students for 2024-2025?

Research Interests

  • Behavioral neuroscience of addiction
  • Habitual and compulsive cocaine seeking
  • Neural mechanisms of motivated behavior

My primary research interests are the neurobiological mechanisms of drug addiction and the compulsive behaviors and maladaptive habits associated with this psychiatric disorder.  A central theme of my research thus far has been investigating the neurocircuitry and transmitter systems underlying drug seeking.  The lab uses animal models of addiction, including the rat self-administration paradigm.  We analyze behavior and neural circuits related to addiction, and make use of tools in pharmacology, immunohistochemistry, anatomical tracing, and optogenetics/DREADDs.

Recent Publications

    • Jones BO, Cruz AM, Kim TH, Spencer HF, Smith RJ (2022) Discriminating goal-directed and habitual cocaine seeking in rats using a novel outcome devaluation procedure. Learning & Memory 29:447-457.
    • Cruz AM, Spencer HF, Kim TH, Jhou TC, Smith RJ. Prelimbic cortical projections to rostromedial tegmental nucleus play a suppressive role in cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2021 Jul;46(8):1399-1406. doi: 10.1038/s41386-020-00909-z.
    • Cruz AM, Kim TH, Smith RJ. Monosynaptic Retrograde Tracing From Prelimbic Neuron Subpopulations Projecting to Either Nucleus Accumbens Core or Rostromedial Tegmental Nucleus. Front Neural Circuits. 2021;15:639733. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2021.639733.
    • Smith RJ, Anderson RI, Haun HL, Mulholland PJ, Griffin WC 3rd, Lopez MF, Becker HC. Dynamic c-Fos changes in mouse brain during acute and protracted withdrawal from chronic intermittent ethanol exposure and relapse drinking. Addict Biol. 2020 Nov;25(6):e12804. doi: 10.1111/adb.12804.
    • Smith RJ, Vento PJ, Chao YS, Good CH, Jhou TC. Gene expression and neurochemical characterization of the rostromedial tegmental nucleus (RMTg) in rats and mice. Brain Struct Funct. 2019 Jan;224(1):219-238. doi: 10.1007/s00429-018-1761-7.
    • Smith RJ, Laiks LS. Behavioral and neural mechanisms underlying habitual and compulsive drug seeking. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2018 Dec 20;87(Pt A):11-21. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2017.09.003.

Affiliated Research Cluster

Neuroscience & Affective Science. Neural mechanisms underlying drug addiction and relapse; maladaptive behavior; rodent models.