Our Trainees assist researchers in finding results in the latest area of addiction research.


Harmony I Risca, PhD

Department of Pharmacoloogy

As a current postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Gregory T. Collins, Dr. Risca is interested in characterizing the reinforcing effects, including acquisition, dependence, and withdrawal of co-abused drugs, such as cocaine and fentanyl. Our lab often utilizes intravenous self-administration procedures to investigate the abuse-related and toxic effects of drug mixtures to help evaluate potential pharmacotherapies for the treatment of polysubstance use disorders


  • Polysubstance use
  • Self-administration
  • Preclinical
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Reinforcement
  • Cocaine
  • Fentanyl


Dr. Risca completed her doctoral degree at Western Michigan University (WMU), which emphasized the experimental analysis of behavior with a particular focus on preclinical behavioral pharmacology. The majority of her graduate research activities involved the characterization of selected synthetic cathinones (“Bath Salts) in animal models of drug discrimination, conditioned place preference, and behavioral sensitization. Dr. Risca’s master’s thesis research utilized drug discrimination in rats in an effort to elucidate dopamine receptor involvement in the interoceptive stimulus effects of 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). Additionally, she evaluated the effects of low dose mixtures of MDPV or mephedrone with other commonly abused psychostimulants in locomotor activity and place conditioning assays in order to predict if concurrent use of these substances poses a greater risk for abuse. Dr. Risca’s dissertation research activities expanded to include preclinical screening of novel treatment strategies in rodent models predictive of depression and anxiety. Specifically, she assessed the antidepressant and anxiolytic properties of chronic, intermittent low-dose lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin treatment in rats.


Risca, HI, Zuarth-Gonzalez, JD, & Baker, LE (2020). Conditioned place preference following concurrent treatment with 3, 4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and methamphetamine in male and female Sprague-Dawley rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. PMID32888971

Risca, HI, & Baker, LE (2019). Contribution of monoaminergic mechanisms to the discriminative stimulus effects of 3, 4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) in Sprague-Dawley rats. Psychopharmacology. PMID30554256