Dr. Svetlana Semenova’s main research focus is investigating the risk factors and neurobiological mechanisms that contribute to the development of dependence to various drugs of abuse (methamphetamine, nicotine, cocaine, alcohol) using rodent animal models. The risk factors of interest include individual differences in sensitivity to drugs of abuse and trait impulsivity as well as comorbid disorders such as schizophrenia, depression and HIV.
Dr. Semenova is the PI of one of the projects within the Translational Methamphetamine AIDS Research Center (TMARC; P50 DA26306). This project investigates the combined effects of methamphetamine and HIV-related neurotoxic protein gp120 on cognitive, reward and motivational function as well as methamphetamine- and HIV/gp120-induced neuro-pathological changes in the brain using immunohistochemistry and imaging techniques in mice. Combined exposure to METH and HIV infection may induce more severe brain damage than each factor alone. Such brain damage results in behavioral, cognitive and motivational deficits that impair day-to-day function in humans. This project aimed to identify behavioral and neuro-pathological mechanisms underlying such deficits, and thus may lead to the design of new therapeutic treatments. Another research interest includes investigations of the role of HIV-related proteins (gp120 and TAT) in the development of nicotine dependence and the potential protective role of the lack of the chemokine receptor 5.