McGinty Laboratory

Welcome to Dr. McGinty's Laboratory

The goal of research in the McGinty Lab is to understand the neurobiology of, and develop therapeutic targets for, substance use disorders (SUDs) using rodent models. My current research is driven by two main questions. 1. What mechanisms underlie cocaine- and heroin-induced disturbances in the prefrontal cortex during abstinence that lead to drug-seeking? This work focuses on corticostriatal structural and synaptic plasticity, gene and protein activity markers, in the nucleus and dendritic spines of neurons. 2. During the last ten years, my research has demonstrated that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the prefrontal cortex modulates drug-seeking in preclinical models of SUDs. A key question we have addressed is: How and via what pathways does BDNF suppress drug-seeking when it is infused into the prefrontal cortex during early withdrawal from cocaine? This research utilizes (Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs) to manipulate defined prelimbic prefrontal projection pathways that mediate relapse to drug seeking and are regulated by BDNF.

We are members of MUSC’s NIH-funded Center on Opioid and Cocaine Addiction in which we explore how the use of heroin and cocaine establishes enduring changes in plasticity-related proteins expressed in the neurons that project from the prelimbic prefrontal cortex to the nucleus accumbens core and how these drug-induced adaptations lead to cue-induced relapse. To study these neuroadaptations, we use viral-mediated expression of transgenes selectively expressed in PL-NA neurons and measure enduring and cue-induced changes in plasticity-related proteins, dendritic spine and astrocytic morphology, and synaptic glutamate-mediated currents using transgenic rats.

Our research is also supported by an individual R01 and training grant awards from NIH.

We welcome you to explore this site to learn more about us.

Selected Publications

  1. Giannotti G, Barry SM, Siemsen BM, Peters J & McGinty JF. (2018). Divergent Prelimbic Cortical Pathways Interact with BDNF to Regulate Cocaine-seeking. J Neurosci 38(42) 8956-8966. PMCID: PMC6191522
  2. Siemsen BM, Giannotti G, McFaddin JA, Scofield MD & McGinty JF. (2019). Biphasic effect of abstinence duration following cocaine self-administration on spine morphology and plasticity-related proteins in prelimbic cortical neurons projecting to the nucleus accumbens core. Brain Struct Funct 224(2) 741-758. PMCID: PMC6438710
  3. McGinty JF, Otis JM. (2020). Heterogeneity in the Paraventricular Thalamus: The Traffic Light of Motivated Behaviors. Front Behav Neurosci 14590528. PMCID: PMC7596164
  4. McGinty JF. BDNF as a therapeutic candidate in cocaine use disorder. Addiction Neuroscience 2 (2022) 100006.

Complete list of published work

Our Team

Jacqueline F. McGinty, Ph.D.
Principle Investigator
Ph.D. in Neuroanatomy
Downstate Medical Center SUNY
Brooklyn, NY

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Torry Dennis, Ph.D.
Ph.D. in Psychology: Health & Neuroscience
University of Texas at Arlington
Arlington, TX

Casey O'Neill, Ph.D.
University of Colorado

Graduate Students

Sarah Barry
B.S in Neuroscience
Furman University, Greenville, SC
Ben Siemsen
BA in Psychology
Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE

Research Specialists

Jordan Hopkins
MS, the Citadel


Howard Becker, Ph.D.
William Griffin III, Ph.D.
Sudie Back, Ph.D.