Rising Juniors Conduct Analgesic Effects of Ketamine with Dr. Blustein

August 9, 2011 Sarah Schwartz

This summer, Zachary Baker ’13 and Sadie Friday ’13 are conducting research with Dr. Joshua Blustein, Associate Professor of Psychology. They are examining the effect of MK801 on blocking the development of tolerance to the analgesic effects of the drug ketamine.

Since 2009, Blustein has focused his lab research on the role of the NMDA antagonist MK801 on preventing the development of tolerance to the analgesic consequences of both the activation of exogenous and endogenous opiates.

In Blustein’s preliminary experiment, he replicated findings from previous labs showing that MK801 can block the tolerance to morphine induced analgesia. He also found that MK801 with Morphine increased the magnitude of analgesia compared to MK801 with Saline. Because stressors are known to activate endogenous opiates and inhibit pain based on the same brain pathways and receptors that allow morphine to inhibit pain, Blustein led a second study. He examined if MK801 would prevent the development of adaptation to stress-induced analgesia.

In contrast to the effect of MK801 preventing morphine tolerance, MK801 failed to block adaptation to stress-induced analgesia. These data provided Blustein with a different pattern of results from the effect of MK801 on preventing tolerance to morphine analgesia.

Baker and Friday have stepped into the lab this summer to collaborate on further research on this topic. Their latest study will examine the effect of MK801 on blocking the development of tolerance to analgesic effects of the drug Ketamine. Since Ketamine produces its analgesia through opiate receptors, the same sites that are responsible for both morphine-induced analgesia and stress-induced analgesia.

A potential application in humans might give physicians the ability to administer the same dosage of ketamine and that would provide the analgesia without the detrimental effects that come with continuously raising the dosage.

“The broader goal of our research is get a result that is publishable and contributes to the current literature on ketamine and MK801’s interaction,” says Friday. “The whole Psychology department is really a close-knit community and getting to spend the extra time here when everyone isn’t worried about their classes you get to build a much more personal relationship with everyone in your department.”

“Normally I would be working at home but I have a job here, I’m gaining experience, and I get to hang out with some pretty cool people too,” adds Baker.

Pending the outcome of the study, Blustein, is planning to submit their work for publication in Behavioral Neuroscience. Both Baker and Friday plan to pursue Ph.D. programs in the future.

“One of the very best things that Arcadia offers its students is the opportunity to conduct state-of-the-art research one-on-one with our gifted faculty,” said Arcadia’s President Carl (Tobey) Oxholm III. “Here, discovery and innovation are not just read about in books—they are experienced with the hands and a mentor. These experiences prepare our students well for graduate schools and careers and help to ensure that our country will have creative minds eager to take on new challenges. But these experiences also create informed citizens, as our students know firsthand how difficult true scientific inquiry is and are better able to evaluate and participate in public discourse about scientific issues that will have local, national and global significance in the coming decades.”

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