Caroline E. Bass PhD

Caroline Bass

Caroline E. Bass

Associate Professor

Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

Specialty/Research Focus

Addictions; Behavioral pharmacology; Drug abuse; Gene Expression; Gene Therapy; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Neurobiology; Neuropharmacology

Contact Information
955 Main Street
Room 3225
Buffalo, New York 14203
Phone: 716-829-3790

Professional Summary:

My laboratory seeks to understand the neurobiology of motivation and how these systems can be "highjacked" by abused substances. Substance abuse and addiction are wide-spread problems that have an enormous economic and emotional toll. Reports indicate that it costs the US upwards to $600 billion a year to deal with the health and criminal consequences and loss of productivity from substance abuse. Despite this, there are few effective treatments to combat this illness.

The brain has natural systems responsible for motivating an organism to participate in behaviors that are necessary for survival, such as eating, exercise and reproduction. These same brain regions are highly sensitive to drugs of abuse, including cocaine, heroin and marijuana. My laboratory seeks to understand how these brain regions are affected by exposure to abused drugs, and in particular how the motivation to take drugs is altered by various molecular mediators in the neurons on these regions. The two basic questions we are interested in are 1) how projections from the cortex to the striatum influence drug seeking behaviors, and 2) how neurotransmitter receptors, particularly dopamine and cannbinoid receptors in these regions influence drug seeking.

Our technical approaches include a number of basic behavioral models including measurements of locomotor activity, catalepsy, conditioned place preference and drug self-administration. In order to probe the circuitry of these brain regions, we use a number of advanced molecular techniques to activate and inactivate neuronal populations including optogenetics and artificial receptors. We probe the molecular pathways within the neurons by over expressing genes or knocking down expression using RNA interference. Gene delivery is accomplished using recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) and several projects in the laboratory focus on improving this approach and exploring potential gene therapy applications for these vectors. The ultimate goal is to understand the basic neurobiology and molecular biology of addiction in order to develop more effective treatments for addiction.

Education and Training:

  • PhD, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University (2007)
  • BS, Biology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Magna Cum Laude (1995)


  • Assistant Professor, Pharmacology and Toxicology, University at Buffalo (2011-present)
  • non-tenure track, Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine (2007–2011)
  • Post Doctoral Fellow, Experimental Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center Harvard School of Medicine (2002–2007)
  • Graduate Student, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University (1995–2007)

Research Expertise:

  • behavioral neuropharmacology: experience with a number of behavioral assays in mice, rats and primates. Emphasis on models of reinforcement, including drug self-administration, as well as locomotor, anxiety and antinociception.
  • viral vector development: design, construct and package adeno-associated virus for specific delivery to targeted organs and cell subtypes, particularly within the CNS.

Grants and Sponsored Research:

  • February 2022–April 2026
    Research training on alcohol etiology and treatment
    Role: Contributor
  • February 2022–June 2022
    Mapping Heterogeneous Dopamine Signaling in Subregions of the Olfactory Tubercle and Its Effect on Psychostimulant-induced Behaviors
    Role: Co-Investigator
  • January 2018–December 2020
    Role of inhibitory GABA Projections from the Ventral Tegmental Area in Motivation Learning
    Whitehall Foundation
    Role: Principal Investigator
  • September 2017–August 2019
    Targeted chemogenetic stimulation of rat VTA GABA neurons in cocaine extinction and reinstatement
    National Institute on Drug Abuse
    Role: Principal Investigator

Journal Articles:

See all (48 more)

Professional Memberships:

  • American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (2012–present)
  • Society for Neuroscience (2007–present)
  • International Cannabinoid Research Society; Professional society for researchers studying the endocannabinoid system and marijuana use (2002–present)

Service Activities:

  • Special Emphasis Panel for Biobehavioral Regulation, Learning, and Ethology (BRLE), NIH; Ad hoc Reviewer (2022)
  • Molecular Neurogenetics (MNG) study section, NIH; Ad hoc Reviewer (2022)
  • Brain Initiative; ad hoc Reviewer (2022)
  • Cognition and Behavior: Learning and behavior section, BMC Neuroscience; Editor (2022)
  • Editor for Frontiers in Neuroscience; Frontiers in Neuroscience (2022)
  • Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience; Review editor (2022)
  • conducted interviews for the PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences (PPBS) program; Interviewer (2021–2022)
  • The program committee sets the program for the annual Society for Neuroscience; Society for Neuroscience Program Committee, Vice Chair of Techniques Theme (2019–2022)
  • administers and coordinates the graduate programs in the Pharmacology and Toxicology department (PMY); Director of Graduate Studies (2019–2022)
  • Selects the speakers for the neurological section of the American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy; Neurologic & Ophthalmic Gene & Cell Therapy Committee, American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (2017–2020)
  • PhD Program in Biomedical Sciences (PPBS); Admissions committee (2013–2019)
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology Graduate Admissions Subcommittee The mission of this committee is to recruit, evaluate, and select the most talented students to enter the Pharmacology and Toxicology graduate programs.; Committee Member (2011–present)
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology Awards Committee The mission of this committee is to promote scholarship and excellence among faculty and students by publicizing and encouraging participation in award competitions.; Committee Member (2011–present)

School News:

In the Media:

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Clinical Offices:

Insurance Accepted:

Contact Information

955 Main Street
Room 3225
Buffalo, New York 14203
Phone: 716-829-3790