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Hao Chen, PhD

Associate Professor
209 Translational Science Research Building 
Phone: 901.448.3720


  • PhD, Michigan State University, Anatomy
  • MS, Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Neuroanatomy
  • Bachelor of Medicine, Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Basic Science of Chinese Medicine

Research Interest

My long-term research interest is to elucidate the complex interactions between social, genetic, and sensory factors in regulating drug abuse behavior, particularly cigarette smoking.

Our main tool is a novel rodent model of socially-acquired intravenous nicotine self-administration, where nicotine is delivered concurrently with olfactory and gustatory cues. We found rats developed strong conditioned aversion to nicotine under this condition. However, when a demonstrator rat that consumes the same olfactory and gustatory cue was placed in the same operant chamber, stable self-administration of nicotine was established. Therefore, social learning converted rats from developing aversive response to establishing stable voluntary drug intake. We are using a multi-disciplinary approach (behavioral, anatomical, pharmacological, genetics, genomics, etc) to identify the neurobiological and genetic mechanisms underlie the strong role of social learning in this behavior paradigm.


1. Parker, CC, Chen, H, Flagel, SB, Geurts, AM, Richards, JB, Robinson, TE, Solberg Woods, LC, Palmer, AA. Rats are the smart choice: Rationale for a renewed focus on rats in behavioral genetics . Neuropharmacology, 2013.

2. Roguski, EE, Chen, H, Sharp, BM, Matta, SG. Fostering itself increases nicotine self-administration in young adult male rats . Psychopharmacology (Berl), 2013.

3. Majumdar, G, Adris, P, Bhargava, N, Chen, H, Raghow, R. Pan-histone deacetylase inhibitors regulate signaling pathways involved in proliferative and pro-inflammatory mechanisms in H9c2 cells . BMC Genomics, 13, 709, 2012.

4. Wang, X, Mozhui, K, Li, Z, Mulligan, MK, Ingels, JF, Zhou, X, Hori, RT, Chen, H, Cook, MN, Williams, RW, Lu, L. A promoter polymorphism in the Per3 gene is associated with alcohol and stress response . Transl Psychiatry, 2, e73, 2012.

5. Chen, H, Hiler, KA, Tolley, EA, Matta, SG, Sharp, BM. Genetic factors control nicotine self-administration in isogenic adolescent rat strains . PLoS One, 7 (8), e44234, 2012.

6. Chen, H, Sharp, BM, Matta, SG, Wu, Q. Social interaction promotes nicotine self-administration with olfactogustatory cues in adolescent rats . Neuropsychopharmacology, 36 (13), 2629-38, 2011.

7. Sharp, BM, Chen, H, Gong, S, Wu, X, Liu, Z, Hiler, K, Taylor, WL, Matta, SG. Gene expression in accumbens GABA neurons from inbred rats with different drug-taking behavior . Genes Brain Behav, 10 (7), 778-88, 2011.

8. Lu, H, Wang, X, Pullen, M, Guan, H, Chen, H, Sahu, S, Zhang, B, Chen, H, Williams, RW, Geisert, EE, Lu, L, Jablonski, MM. Genetic dissection of the Gpnmb network in the eye . Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 52 (7), 4132-42, 2011.

9. Chen, H, Liu, Z, Gong, S, Wu, X, Taylor, WL, Williams, RW, Matta, SG, Sharp, BM. Genome-Wide Gene Expression Profiling of Nucleus Accumbens Neurons Projecting to Ventral Pallidum Using both Microarray and Transcriptome Sequencing . Front Neurosci, 5, 98, 2010.

10. Yu, G, Chen, H, Wu, X, Matta, SG, Sharp, BM. Nicotine self-administration differentially modulates glutamate and GABA transmission in hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus to enhance the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal response to stress . J Neurochem, 113 (4), 919-29, 2010.

11. Wang, F, Chen, H, Sharp, BM. Neuroadaptive changes in the mesocortical glutamatergic system during chronic nicotine self-administration and after extinction in rats . J Neurochem, 106 (2), 943-56, 2008.

12. Yu, G, Chen, H, Zhao, W, Matta, SG, Sharp, BM. Nicotine self-administration differentially regulates hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing factor and arginine vasopressin mRNAs and facilitates stress-induced neuronal activation . J Neurosci, 28 (11), 2773-82, 2008.

13. Chen, H, Fu, Y, Sharp, BM. Chronic nicotine self-administration augments hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to mild acute stress . Neuropsychopharmacology, 33 (4), 721-30, 2008.

14. Chen, H, Matta, SG, Sharp, BM. Acquisition of nicotine self-administration in adolescent rats given prolonged access to the drug . Neuropsychopharmacology, 32 (3), 700-9, 2007.

15. Zhao, R, Chen, H, Sharp, BM. Nicotine-induced norepinephrine release in hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and amygdala is mediated by N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and nitric oxide in the nucleus tractus solitarius . J Pharmacol Exp Ther, 320 (2), 837-44, 2007.

16. Wang, F, Chen, H, Steketee, JD, Sharp, BM. Upregulation of ionotropic glutamate receptor subunits within specific mesocorticolimbic regions during chronic nicotine self-administration . Neuropsychopharmacology, 32 (1), 103-9, 2007.

17. Bao, L, Wei, L, Peirce, JL, Homayouni, R, Li, H, Zhou, M, Chen, H, Lu, L, Williams, RW, Pfeffer, LM, Goldowitz, D, Cui, Y. Combining gene expression QTL mapping and phenotypic spectrum analysis to uncover gene regulatory relationships . Mamm Genome, 17 (6), 575-83, 2006.

18. Li, H, Chen, H, Bao, L, Manly, KF, Chesler, EJ, Lu, L, Wang, J, Zhou, M, Williams, RW, Cui, Y. Integrative genetic analysis of transcription modules: towards filling the gap between genetic loci and inherited traits . Hum Mol Genet, 15 (3), 481-92, 2006.

19. Chen, H, Parker, SL, Matta, SG, Sharp, BM. Gestational nicotine exposure reduces nicotinic cholinergic receptor (nAChR) expression in dopaminergic brain regions of adolescent rats . Eur J Neurosci, 22 (2), 380-8, 2005.

20. Chen, H, Sharp, BM. Content-rich biological network constructed by mining PubMed abstracts . BMC Bioinformatics, 5, 147, 2004.

21. Chen, H, Weber, AJ. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor reduces TrkB protein and mRNA in the normal retina and following optic nerve crush in adult rats . Brain Res, 1011 (1), 99-106, 2004.

22. Chen, H, Sharp, BM. Oliz, a suite of Perl scripts that assist in the design of microarrays using 50mer oligonucleotides from the 3' untranslated region . BMC Bioinformatics, 3, 27, 2002.

23. Chen, H, Weber, AJ. Expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein and glutamine synthetase by Müller cells after optic nerve damage and intravitreal application of brain-derived neurotrophic factor . Glia, 38 (2), 115-25, 2002.

24. Chen, H, Weber, AJ. BDNF enhances retinal ganglion cell survival in cats with optic nerve damage. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 42 (5), 966-74, 2001.

25. Weber, AJ, Chen, H, Hubbard, WC, Kaufman, PL. Experimental glaucoma and cell size, density, and number in the primate lateral geniculate nucleus . Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 41 (6), 1370-9, 2000.

Last Published: Sep 26, 2019