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Michael Nizhnikov


Assistant Professor

Ph.D., Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY


Phone: (203) 392-8886

Research Interests:

My research focuses on low levels of prenatal ethanol exposure and the subsequent effects on the drinking of the child as it age. More specifically, I am interested in the changes that are occurring in the brain after these low levels (just a few drinks throughout the whole pregnancy) of exposure in the womb that lead to increased risk of alcoholism.

Currently my research has begun to focus on the transgenerational transfer of alcohol preference. Specifically I am interested in epigenetic effects of prenatal alcohol on the fetus and possible transfer across generations. In order to explore this questions I have been awarded an NIH grant for 2 years in the amount of $270,000.

Another aspect of my current research has to do with impulsivity. I am testing whether prenatal ethanol exposure makes the animals more impulsive and that this is the driving force behind increased probability for alcohol abuse.

Selected Publications:

1. Fernández MS, Fabio MC, Miranda-Morales RS, Virgolini MB, De Giovanni LN, Hansen C, Wille-Bille A, Nizhnikov ME, Spear LP, Pautassi RM. (2016). Age-related effects of chronic restraint stress on ethanol drinking, ethanol-induced sedation, and on basal and stress-induced anxiety response. Alcohol. pii: S0741-8329(15)30056-2. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2015.11.009. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Fabio MC, Macchione AF, Nizhnikov ME, Pautassi RM. (2015). Prenatal ethanol increases ethanol intake throughout adolescence, alters ethanol-mediated aversive learning, and affects μ but not δ or κ opioid receptor mRNA expression. Eur J Neurosci. 41(12): 1569-79

2. Kamenetzky GV, Suárez AB, Pautassi RM, Mustaca AE, Nizhnikov ME. (2015) Change in the hedonic value of an aversive stimulus in the presence of a pre-exposed odor. Physiol Behav. 148: 51-7

3. Popoola DO, Borrow AP, Sanders JE, Nizhnikov ME, Cameron NM. (2015). Can low-level ethanol exposure during pregnancy influence maternal care? An investigation using two strains of rat across generations. Physiol Behav. 148: 111-21

4. Pautassi RM, Miranda-Morales RS, Nizhnikov M. (2014). Operant Self-administration of Ethanol in Infant Rats. Physiol Behav. 148: 87-99

5. Nizhnikov ME, Popoola DO, Cameron NM. (2016). Trans-generational transmission of the effect of gestational ethanol exposure on ethanol use-related behavior. Alcohol Clin Exp Res (Accepted).

6. Acevedo MB, Nizhnikov ME, Molina JC, Putassi RM. Relationship between ethanol-induced activity and anxiolysis in the open field, elevated plus maze, and light-dark box in adolescent rats: Effect on predisposition to ethanol intake. Behav Brain Res. 265:203-15.

7. Miranda-Morales RM, Nizhnikov ME, Waters DH, and Spear NE (2014). New evidence of ethanol anxiolytic properties in the infant rat. Alcohol. 48(4):367-74.

8. Nizhnikov ME, Pautassi ME, Carter JM, Landin JD, Varlinskaya EI, Bordner KA, Werner DF, Spear NE. (2014). Brief prenatal ethanol exposure alters behavioral sensitivity to kappa agonists and antagonists and reduces kappa opioid receptor expression. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 38(6):1630-8.

9. Nizhnikov ME, Kozlov AP, Kramskaya TA,  Varlinskaya EI, Spear NE. (2014). Central effects of ethanol interact with endogenous mu opioid to control isolation-induced analgesia in maternally separated rats. Beh. Brain. Res. 260: 119-130.

10. Miranda-Morales RS, Nizhnikov ME, and Spear NE. (2014) Prenatal exposure to ethanol during late gestation facilitates operant self-administration of the drug in 5-day-old rats. Alcohol 48(1): 19-23.