Mildred Francis Thompson University Professor & Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Psychology

Research Interests

My research program bridges areas of neuroscience, pharmacology, animal learning and behavior, and biopsychology. We use preclinical animal models to understand the behavioral, neural, and pharmacological factors contributing to drug use and misuse liability. One arm of this research program investigates how behavioral and neuropharmacological processes involved in the perceptibility of a drug stimulus and the behavior it controls change with learning history. For nicotine, recent research implicates β2-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and the dorsal medial striatum in acquired appetitive behaviors controlled by the nicotine stimulus. Other empirical efforts focus on neuro-inflammation, extracellular vesicles, and novel pharmacotherapy approaches for treating nicotine and methamphetamine use, understanding the reward-enhancing effects of drugs using behavioral economics, and the development of more translationally relevant animal models to inform FDA tobacco regulation policy. We are extending these arms of the research program to include sex differences and nicotine-alcohol interaction. Research across the years has been funded by grants from NIH (current: R01 DA046109, R21 DA058588, R01 DA057208, P20 GM130461), DoD (current: U2-20-F0090), Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, and University of Nebraska -Lincoln (NE Tobacco Settlement Funds). 

Service Highlights (UNL)

  • Associate Vice Chancellor for Research (January 2023 to present; Interim from July 2020 to December 2022)
  • Director, Rural Drug Addiction Research Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (NIH P20 GM130461)
  • Journal of Experimental Analysis of Behavior -- Editor for Behavioral Pharmacology & Neuroscience  (2010 to present) 
  • Founding Director and current Co-Director, Minority Health Disparities Initiative (2012-2014; 2020 to present)
  • Chair of Psychology (August 2012 to July 2020)
  • NIH Study Section Member (Biobehavioral Regulation, Learning & Ethology [2007-2011]; Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior [2014-2020])
  • Past President for Division 28 (Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse) of the American Psychological Association (Fellow: Division 6, 28, 25)
  • Fellow, Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Half Dozen or so Articles Across the Years

From over 170 papers (myNCBI can be found here)

  • Bardo MT & Bevins RA (2000) Conditioned place preference: What does it add to our preclinical understanding of drug reward? Psychopharmacology, 153, 31-43.  

  • Bevins RA & Besheer J (2006) Object recognition in rats and mice: A one-trial non-matching to sample learning task to study “recognition memory”. Nature Protocols, 1, 1306-1311.

  • Murray JE & Bevins RA (2010) Cannabinoid conditioned reward and aversion: behavioral and neural processes. Chemical Neuroscience, 1, 265-278. 

  • Bevins RA & Besheer J (2014) Interoception and learning: Import to understanding and treating diseases and psychopathologies. ACS: Chemical Neuroscience, 5, 624-631. 
  • Bevins RA, Barrett ST, Huynh YW, Thompson BM, Kwan DA, & Murray JE (2018) Experimental analysis of behavior and tobacco regulatory research on nicotine reduction. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 110, 1-10. 
  • Barrett ST, Thompson BM, Emory JR, Larsen CE, Pittenger ST, Harris EN, & Bevins RA (2020) Sex differences in the reward enhancing effects of nicotine on ethanol reinforcement: A reinforcer demand analysis. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 22, 238-247.

  • McNealy KR, Weyrich L, & Bevins RA (2023) The co-use of nicotine and prescription psychostimulants: A systematic review of their behavioral and neuropharmacological interactions. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 248, 109906. 

Find my recent CV here


Jacksonville State University
Bachelor of Science, April 1989

  • Major: Psychology
  • Mentor: Dr. W.L. Palya

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Doctor of Philosophy, September 1993

  • Major: Neuroscience & Behavior
  • Specialty: Animal Learning 
  • Mentor: Dr. J.J.B. Ayres

University of Kentucky, KY 40506
Post-doctoral Fellow, 1993-1996

  • Specialty: Behavioral Pharmacology & Drug Use
  • Mentor: Dr. M.T. Bardo