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Research Team


Brian Kangas

Brian Kangas, PhD (Principal Investigator)

Dr. Kangas is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a Lab Director in the Behavioral Biology Program at McLean Hospital. He received his bachelor's degree in Psychology at Southern Illinois University, his master's degree in Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas, and his doctorate in Psychology at the University of Florida.

Research Interests:

The development and empirical validation of animal models and apparatus to assay complex behavioral processes relevant to addiction, pain perception, chronic stress, and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Current Activities:

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.


Kayleigh LaMalfa

Kayleigh LaMalfa, BS (Research Assistant, 2022-present)

Kayleigh LaMalfa is a Research Assistant in the Kangas Lab. She received her bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Medical Anthropology and a certificate in Community Engagement from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Research Interests:

Improving existing and developing novel pharmacologic treatment options for neuropsychiatric disorders as well as investigating the effects of diverse drug classes on learning and memory.

Current Activities:

Evaluating the preclinical potential of psychedelics as candidate therapeutics for treatment-resistant anhedonia, and using complex behavioral endpoints to assess the cognitive effects of entactogens.

Kangas Lab Publications:

Adam AS, LaMalfa KS, Razavi Y, Kohut SJ, Kangas BD (in press). A multimodal preclinical assessment of MDMA in female and male rats: Prohedonic, cognition disruptive, and prosocial effects. Psychedelic Medicine.


Isabel Yu

Isabel Yu, BS (Research Assistant, 2022-present)

Isabel Yu is a Research Assistant in the Kangas lab. She received her Honors Bachelor of Science with a specialist in Neuroscience and a major in Biology from the University of Toronto.

Research Interests:

Understanding how neural and molecular mechanisms are related to cognition-related behavior associated with neuropsychiatric disorders and addiction.

Current Activities:

Using complex behavioral endpoints and neurochemical pathways to conduct threat-assessments of chemical agents involved in modern bioweapons.


Amaya Jenkins

Amaya Jenkins, BS (Research Assistant, 2022-present)

Amaya Jenkins is a Research Assistant in the Kangas lab. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology & Psychology from Allegheny College.

Research Interests:

Researching innovative pharmaceuticals options for treatment-resistant depression and other mood disorders.

Current Activities:

Examining ketamine and ketamine-like ligands for their prohedonic effects via NMDA and non-NMDA mechanisms of action, and determining the effects of sleep fragmentation on complex behavioral processes.


Kangas Lab Alumni


Paloma Martinez

Paloma Martinez Gonzalez (MMHRSP Fellow, 2023)

Current Position: Neuroscience Major at Wheaton College

Kangas Lab Accomplishments:

Characterized the effects of chronic stress and environmental enrichment on attentional processes as a means to inform neuropsychiatric treatment strategies.


Abshir Adam

Abshir Adam (MMHRSP Fellow, 2022)

Current Position: Neuroscience Major at Middlebury College.

Kangas Lab Accomplishments:

Used reverse-translated behavioral assays to assess the prohedonic effects of entactogens as fast-acting alternatives to frontline psychiatric treatments.

Kangas Lab Publications:

Adam AS, LaMalfa KS, Razavi Y, Kohut SJ, Kangas BD (in press). A multimodal preclinical assessment of MDMA in female and male rats: Prohedonic, cognition disruptive, and prosocial effects. Psychedelic Medicine.


Oanh Luc

Oanh Luc, MS (Research Assistant, 2019-2022)

Current Position: Visiting Science Instructor, Shanghai

Kangas Lab Accomplishments:

Examined the effects of THC exposure during adolescence on complex behavioral processes, appraised candidate medications designed to be fast-acting antidepressants, and conducted risk assessments of spaceflight stressors for NASA.

Kangas Lab Publications:

Luc OT, Kangas BD (in press). Validation of a touchscreen probabilistic reward task for mice: A reverse-translated assay with cross-species continuity. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience.

Desai RI, Kangas BD, Luc OT, Solakidou E, Smith EC, Dawes MH, Ma X, Makriyannis A, Chatterjee S, Dayeh MA, Muñoz-Jaramillo A, Desai MI, Limoli CL (2023). Complex 33-beam simulated galactic cosmic radiation exposure impacts cognitive function and prefrontal cortex neurotransmitter networks in male mice. Nature Communications, 14, 7779.

Iturra-Mena AM, Kangas BD, Luc OT, Potter D, Pizzagalli DA (2023). Electrophysiological signatures of reward learning in the rodent touchscreen-based Probabilistic Reward Task. Neuropsychopharmacology, 48, 700-709.

Kangas BD, Short AK, Luc OT, Stern HS, Baram TZ, Pizzagalli DA (2022). A cross-species assay demonstrates that reward responsiveness is enduringly impacted by adverse, unpredictable early-life experiences. Neuropsychopharmacology, 4, 767-775.

Luc OT, Pizzagalli DA, Kangas BD (2021). Toward a quantification of anhedonia: Unified matching law and signal detection for clinical assessment and drug development. Perspectives on Behavior Science, 44, 517-540.

Kangas BD, Iturra-Mena AM, Robble MA, Luc OT, Potter D, Nickels S, Bergman J, Carlezon WA, Pizzagalli DA (2021). Concurrent electrophysiological recording and cognitive testing in a rodent touchscreen environment. Scientific Reports, 11, 11665.

Kangas BD, Wooldridge LM, Luc OT, Bergman J, Pizzagalli DA (2020). Empirical validation of a touchscreen probabilistic reward task in rats. Translational Psychiatry, 10, 285.


Lisa Wooldridge

Lisa Wooldridge, BS (Research Assistant, 2016-2019)

Current Position: PhD Candidate, Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania

Kangas Lab Accomplishments:

Examined the antiemetic effects of cannabinoid agonists; appraised novel muscarinic antagonists as fast-acting antidepressants.

Kangas Lab Publications:

Wooldridge LM, Bergman J, Pizzagalli DA, Kangas BD (2021). Translational assessments of reward responsiveness in the marmoset. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 24, 409-418.

Kangas BD, Wooldridge LM, Luc OT, Bergman J, Pizzagalli DA (2020). Empirical validation of a touchscreen probabilistic reward task in rats. Translational Psychiatry, 10, 285.

Wooldridge LM, Ji L, Lui Y, Nikas SP, Makriyannis A, Bergman J, Kangas BD (2020). Antiemetic effects of cannabinoid agonists in nonhuman primates. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 374, 462-468.

Wooldridge LM, Kangas BD (2019). An assay of drug-induced emesis in the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus). Journal of Medical Primatology, 48, 236-243.


Erica Porter

Erica Porter, BS (Research Assistant, 2015-2017)

Current Position: Regulatory Affairs Statistical Data Analyst at BD

Kangas Lab Accomplishments:

Investigated the deleterious effects of self-administered prescription opioids on learning and cognitive flexibility.

Kangas Lab Publications:

Withey SL, Doyle RJ, Porter EN, Bergman J, Kangas BD (2020). Discrimination learning in oxycodone-treated nonhuman primates. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 207, 107778.


Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard, PhD (Research Assistant, 2011-2015)

Current Position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University

Kangas Lab Accomplishments:

Characterized the interoceptive effects of endocannabinoids and catabolic enzyme inhibitors; investigated benzodiazepine/opioid drug combinations on operant nociception.

Kangas Lab Publications:

Leonard MZ, Kangas BD (2020). Effects of oxycodone and diazepam alone and in combination on operant nociception. Behavioural Pharmacology, 31, 168-173.

Leonard MZ, Alapafuja SO, Ji L, Shukla VG, Liu Y, Nikas SP, Makriyannis A, Bergman J, Kangas BD (2017). Cannabinoid CB1 discrimination: Effects of endocannabinoids and catabolic enzyme inhibitors. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 363, 314-323.

Kangas BD, Leonard MZ, Shukla VG, Alapafuja SO, Nikas SP, Makriyannis A, Bergman J (2016). Comparisons of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol and anandamide on a battery of cognition-related behavior in nonhuman primates. Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 357, 125-133.

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