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Vanya Quinones-Jenab

Ph.D., Rutgers University


Department of Psychology
Hunter College, Room 602N
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065
Tel: (212) 772-4640
Fax:(212) 650-3018


Current Areas of Research:

     Our group is trying to understand neurological mechanisms which underlie sex differences in responses to stressors, such as pain and drugs of abuse.  To understand these questions we are using an integrated approach combining molecular, cellular, physiological and behavioral techniques such as in situ histochemistry, RNA solution hybridization, RT-PCR, immunocytochemistry, radioimmunoassay, and behavioral monitoring.  Over the past five years at Hunter, we have demonstrated fundamental sex differences in cocaine-induced behavioral effects.  For example, female rats have exaggerated behavioral responses and increased corticosterone release after acute and chronic cocaine administration when compared to male rats.  Female rats also sensitize to cocaine-induced behavioral effects faster than male rats and maintain this sensitization after cocaine withdrawal. 

     We have also recently demonstrated female rats develop associations between environmental stimuli and cocaine’s rewarding effects more quicker and at lower doses than do males.  Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are gonadal hormones which regulate our reproductive system as well as the plasticity and overall activity of the central nervous system.  We have three major clues suggesting the contribution of gonadal hormones to the observed gender differences in cocaine’s behavioral effects and reward.  First, during the estrous cycle, when estrogen and progesterone fluctuate, cocaine-induced behavioral alterations are affected by the stage of the cycle.  Second, when female rats are gonadectomized, and thus, there is no endogenous estrogen or progesterone in their blood, they lose their behavioral hypersensitivity to cocaine, their ability to sensitize faster than males after repetitive cocaine administration, and their ability to produce a strong reward association between cocaine and the environmental stimuli.  Finally, estrogen and progesterone replacement affect behavioral responses to cocaine in gonadectomized rats. For example, acute and chronic co-administration of estrogen and cocaine produce higher behavioral activation than administration of cocaine alone.  On the other hand, progesterone (at high doses) has the ability to block cocaine-induced behavioral responses as well as cocaine-induced reward effects.


Selected Publications:

Russo,S.J., Fabian, S.J., Festa, E., Jenab, S., Quiñones-Jenab, V., (2003) Sex differences in cocaine-induced place preference in rats, Brain Research, in press.

Russo, S.J., Fabian, S.J., Festa, E.D., Gazi, F.M., Jenab, S., Quiñones-Jenab, V., (2003) Sex differences in the regulation of cocaine reward learning and monoamines by endogenous gonadal hormones. Neuroscience, in press.

Festa ED, Cecala C, Quiñones-Jenab, V, Jenab S., (2002) Cocaine modulates mu-opioid receptor mRNA but not c-Fos mRNA levels in primary cortical astrocytes. Brain Research Bulletin 58 (3): 282-288.

QuiñonesJenab, V, Perrotti, L.I., Fabian, S., Chin, J., Russo, S.J., and Jenab, S. (2001) Endocrinological basis of sex differences in cocaine induced behavioral responses, Ann NY Acad. Sci, 973: 202?216.

Chin,J., Fletcher, H., Sterinin, O., Perrotti, L.E., Jenab, S., and Quiñones-Jenab,V, (2001) Endogenous gonadal hormones effects after acute and chronic cocaine administration. Brain Research, 945 (1) 123-130.