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WenLin Sun, MD, PhD

WenLin Sun

Assistant Professor
Room 227 Translational Research Building
Office Phone: 901.448.1354
Lab Phone: 901.448.1355
Fax: 901.448.7300


  • Beijing Medical University, Beijing, China., M.D., 1989
  • University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR, Ph.D., 2000, Pharmacology
  • Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, Postdoctoral Fellow, 2000, Neuroscience

Research Interests

My long-term research goal is to understand basic neurobiological mechanisms underlying drug addiction, a chronic relapsing brain disease. Compulsive drug seeking and drug taking even in the face of serious negative consequences are the core symptoms of this disease. Thus far, treatment of drug addiction has met a limited success due to a high rate of relapse, the most challenging issue facing clinicians today. Development of better and more effective behavioral and drug therapies will depend on our better understanding of the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of the disease. Toward this end, my research focuses on several related areas. The first area aims to identify neural circuits and receptor systems involved in relapse induced by various environmental stimuli such as drug-conditioned stimuli (CS), stress, and drugs. The second area aims to understand what type of information (reward, motivation, learning/memory, and motor programming) is processed in these circuits. The third area aims to investigate what type of neuronal plasticity occurs within the circuits after chronic drug abuse and how the neuroplasticity is related to addiction-related behavior. To answer these questions the drug self-administration and reinstatement animal models are used to simulate drug-taking and relapse to drug-seeking behavior.

Integrated studies combining the techniques of neuropharmacology, electrophysiology, electrochemistry and behaviorare conducted in these models. By using the cutting-edge electrophysiological (single-unit recording) and electrochemical (fast scan cyclic voltammetry) techniques in behaving animals, the activities of multiple neurons and neurotransmissions in the brain can be recorded while animals are performing drug-taking and drug-seeking behavior. Because such a technique offers the ability to simultaneously monitor brain activity and the behavior, it provides a powerful tool to study neuronal and neurochemical mechanisms underlying addiction-related behavior.


  1. YueQiang Xue, Steketee J. D., Sun, WenLin (2012) Inactivation of the central nucleus of the amygdala reduces the effect of punishment on cocaine self-administration in rats. European Journal of Neuroscience. 35: 775-783
  2. Lu, LianYi, Xue, Yueqiang, Steketee, J. D., Rebec, G. V., Sun, WenLin (2012). Regulation of cocaine-induced reinstatement by group II metabotropic glutamate receptors in the ventral tegmental area. Psychopharmacology 220: 75-85.
  3. Sun, WenLin (2011). Dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area: synaptic plasticity and role in relapse to drug-seeking behavior. Current Drug Abuse Reviews. 4: 270-285
  4. Xue, Y-Q, Jeffery D. Steketee, George, V. Rebec, Sun, WenLin (2011) Activation of D2-like Receptors in the Ventral Tegmental Area Inhibits Cocaine-induced Reinstatement of Drug-seeking Behavior in Rats. European Journal of Neuroscience 33: 1318-1326.
  5. Sun, WenLin, Xue, Y-Q, Huang, Z-F, and Steketee, Jeffery D. (2010) Regulation of Reinstatement of Cocaine-seeking Behavior by ?-opioid Receptors in the Ventral Tegmental Area. Psychopharmacology 210: 179-188.
  6. Sun W., Rebec GV (2006) Effects of Cocaine Self-administration on Neuronal Activity of the Rat Prefrontal Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience 26: 8004-8008.
  7. Rebec, G. V. and Sun, W. (2005) Neuronal Substrates of Relapse to Cocaine-seeking Behavior: Role of Prefrontal Cortex. Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior 84: 653-666
  8. Sun, W., Akins, C. K., Mattingly, A. E. and Rebec, G. V. (2005) Ionotropic Glutamate Receptors in the Ventral Tegmental Area Regulate Cocaine-seeking Behavior in Rats. Neuropsychopharmacology 30: 2073-2081.
  9. Sun, W. and Rebec, GV (2005).  The Role of Prefrontal Cortex D1-like and D2-like Receptors in Cocaine-seeking Behavior in Rats.  Psychopharmacology 177: 315-323
  10. Sun, W and Wessinger, W. D. (2004). Characterization of the Non-competitive antagonist Binding Site of the NMDA Receptor in Dark Agouti Rats. Life Sciences 75: 1405-1415
  11. Sun, W. and Rebec, G. V. (2003). Lidocaine Inactivation of Ventral Subiculum Attenuates Cocaine-seeking Behavior in Rats. Journal of Neuroscience 23: 10258-10264
  12. McMillan, D. E., Sun, W. and Hardwick, W. C. (1996). Effects of drug discrimination history on the generalization of Pentobarbital to other drugs. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 278: 50-61
May 26, 2022