Sally L Huskinson, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
The University of Mississippi Medical Center
Sally Huskinson earned her Ph.D. in Psychology at West Virginia University and completed her postdoctoral training in Behavioral Pharmacology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson, MS. Currently, Sally is an Assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UMMC. Her research program focuses on the role of uncertain outcomes in the development, maintenance, and treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs).
Converging evidence has established that manipulating variables such as the cost (i.e., number of responses) required to earn drug reinforcers, or the dose of drug available per delivery, can reduce drug choice and more generally, drug self-administration. The effects of these manipulations on drug self-administration have been studied primarily with predictable, often low-cost schedules of delivery, and this may impede generalization from preclinical models to the natural environment. The choice to take a drug when drug and competing nondrug options are available under qualitatively different schedules of availability represents a more translational approach to what individuals with SUDs often experience, particularly for those individuals who are experiencing homelessness, unemployment, or low incomes. For example, predictable amounts of work (i.e., most jobs) result in predictable availability of a paycheck, whereas illicit drugs may be relatively unpredictable in terms of their quality and in the time and effort required to obtain them. While many factors contribute to SUDs, the primary premise of my research program is that unpredictable drug access may be a common feature of the environment that plays a key role in perseverative drug taking.
Under the basic choice arrangement, male and female rhesus monkeys choose between cocaine and food under fixed and variable schedules that require, on average, an equal number of responses. Early studies using this choice arrangement indicate that unpredictable availability could contribute to excessive allocation of behavior toward procuring drugs at the expense of more predictable, nondrug alternatives. Conversely, if unpredictable food delivery decreases cocaine choice, it would support the use of novel, easily implemented modifications to therapies like contingency management or treatments that incorporate nondrug reinforcers as a treatment component.