Karen Szumlinski

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Research Area

Neuroscience and Behavior


Karen K. Szumlinski earned a BSc in Psychology and a MSc in Medical Sciences (Neuroscience and Behavioural Sciences Division) at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Szumlinski earned a second MS and her PhD (2000) in the Center for Neuroscience and Neuropharmacology at the Albany Medical College in Albany, New York, USA. Dr. Szumlinski conducted her post-doctoral training at the Neuroscience Institute at the Medical University of South Carolina. In December 2003, Dr. Szumlinski was promoted to Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Physiology and Neuroscience at the Medical University of South Carolina and in July 2004 was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Szumlinski is currently a Full Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and is affiliated with both the Neuroscience Research Institute and the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at UCSB. She sits on the Editorial Boards of a number of journals including: eNeuro (Addiction Review Editor), Addiction Biology, Synapse, and several Frontiers journals. In addition, she serves as an ad hoc reviewer for over 40 neuroscience-related journals. Dr. Szumlinski is a Fellow of the American College on Neuropsychopharmacology,  and a member of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, the Research Society on Alcoholism, the European Behavioural Pharmacological Society, the International Behavioural Neuroscience Society and the Society for Neuroscience. Dr. Szumlinski is the founder and faculty advisor of the UCSB Brainiacs, a K-6 instructional outreach program that is highly active in educating youth in the Santa Barbara and Goleta school districts about brain science, health and safety.


Dr. Szumlinski’s major research interest concerns the biochemical mechanisms underlying the changes in brain and behavior produced by chronic exposure to drugs of abuse, in particular psychomotor stimulants and alcohol. Current research focuses on the role of postsynaptic scaffolding proteins regulating extracellular glutamate and glutamate receptor function in drug- and stressor-induced changes in brain and behavior. Related research examines the role of glutamate signaling in neuropsychiatric disorders associated with addiction, such as psychosis and depression. Her research employs transgenic mice, adeno-associated viral vectors and neuropharmacological approaches to examine the consequences of manipulating forebrain glutamate upon on binge alcohol-drinking, the incubation of cocaine-craving, and methamphetamine preference and intake. More recent work seeks to develop novel mouse models of oral methamphetamine and prescription opioid-taking for the high-throughput study of genetic variance in drug abuse. The techniques employed in her laboratory include a variety of assays for undrugged and drug-induced changes behavior, in vivo microdialysis, Western blotting, and immunocytochemistry. Dr. Szumlinski’s laboratory is involved in a number of collaborative projects with other faculty within the Departments of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, as well as with several research laboratories within the United States and abroad. Her laboratory is currently funded by NIH, as well as by support from UCSB.

Selected Publications

  • Szumlinski KK, Lominac KD, Campbell RR, Cohen M, Fultz EK, Brown CN, Miller BW, Quadir SG, Martin D, Thompson AB, von Jonquieres G, Klugmann M, Phillips TH, Kippin TE (2016) Methamphetamine addiction vulnerability: The GLU, the bad and the ugly. Biol. Psychiat (R1 submitted 9-6-2016).
  • Guo W, Molinaro G, Collins KA, Hays SA, Paylor R, Worley PF, Szumlinski KK, Huber KM. (2016) Selective disruption of mGluR5-Homer interactions mimics multiple phenotypes of Fragile X Syndrome in mice. J Neuroscience 36: 2131-47.
  • Quadir SG, Santos JR, Campbell RR, Wroten MG, Singh N, Holloway JJ, Bal SK, Camarini R, Szumlinski KK. (2016) Homer2 regulates alcohol and stress cross-sensitization. Addiction Biol 21(3):613-33. PMID: 25916683
  • Cozzoli DK, Courson J, Rostock C, Wroten MG, Caruana AL, Zhang PW, Xiao B, Hu J-H, Worley PF, Crabbe JC, Finn DA, Szumlinski KK. (2015) Extended amygdala protein kinase C epsilon signaling mediates binge alcohol consumption. Biol Psychiat 79: 443-51. PMID: 25861702.
  • Lominac KD, McKenna CL, Schwartz LM, Ruiz PN, Wroten MG, Miller BW, Holloway JJ, Travis KO, Rajasekar G, Maliniak D, Thompson AB, Urman LE, Phillips TJ, Szumlinski KK (2014) Mesocorticolimbic monoamine correlates of methamphetamine sensitization and motivation. Frontiers in Systems Neurosci 8:70. PMID: 24847220
  • Loweth JA, Scheyer AF, Milovanovic M, Lacrosse AL, Flores-Barrera E, Werner CT, Li X, Ford KA, Le T, Olive MF, Szumlinski KK, Tseng KY, Wolf ME (2014). Synaptic depression via mGluR1 positive allosteric modulation suppresses cue-induced cocaine craving. Nat Neurosci 17:73-80. PMID: 24270186
  • Cozzoli DK, Courson J, Wroten MG, Greentree DI, Lum EN, Campbell RR, Thompson AB, Worley PF, Jonquieres G, Klugmann M, Finn DA, Szumlinski KK (2014) Binge alcohol drinking by mice requires intact Group1 metabotropic glutamate receptor signaling within the central nucleus of the amygdala. Neuropsychopharmacology 39:435-444. PMID: 23966068
  • Park JM, Hu JH, Milshteyn A, Zhang PW, Moore CG, Park S, Datko MC, Domingo RD, Reyes CM, Wang XJ, Etzkorn FA, Xiao B, Szumlinski KK, Kern D, Linden DJ, Worley PF (2013). A prolyl-isomerase mediates dopamine-dependent plasticity and cocaine motor sensitization. Cell 154: 637-650. PMID: 23911326
  • Obara I, Goulding SP, Gould AT, Lominac KD, Hu J-H, Zhang PW, Jonquieres G, Klugmann M, Xiao B, Seeburg PH, Worley PF, Szumlinski KK (2013) Homers at the interface between reward and pain. Front Psychiatry. 4:39. PMID: 23761764
  • Ary AW, Lominac KD, Wroten MG, Williams AR, Campbell RR, Ben-Shahar O, von Jonquieres G, Klugmann M, Szumlinski KK. (2013) Imbalances in prefrontal cortex CC-Homer1 versus –Homer2 expression promote cocaine-seeking behavior. J Neurosci 33:8101-8113. PMID: 23658151
  • Ben-Shahar O, Miller BW, Sacramento AD, Webb SM, Ditzhazy J, Caruana AL, Gordon E, Ploense KL, Wroten M, Kippin TE, Szumlinski KK (2013) Deficits in ventromedial prefrontal cortex Group1 metabotropic glutamate receptor function mediate resistance to extinction during protracted withdrawal from an extensive history of cocaine self-administration. J Neurosci 33: 495-506. PMID: 23303930
  • Lominac KD, Sacramento AD, Szumlinski KK, Kippin TE (2012) Distinct neurochemical adaptations within the nucleus accumbens produced by a history of self-administered versus non-contingently administered intravenous methamphetamine. Neuropsychopharmacology 37: 707-722. PMID: 22030712

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