Lori Knackstedt, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

2023 Awardee

Lori Knackstedt’s research investigates the underpinnings of substance use disorder with the ultimate goal of identifying treatments, especially in patients who also have post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD) and/or use multiple addictive compounds, including cocaine, marijuana, opioids, alcohol and cigarettes.

“My work has found that the majority of cocaine users also consume alcohol in simultaneous and sequential patterns and that the co-consumption of these drugs in rodents produces distinct brain changes compared to the use of either drug alone,” she said.

Recognizing the critical need to understand this dynamic, Knackstedt’s team developed a translational rat model of PTSD. Using stress triggers, Knackstedt was able to show that some rats exhibit long-term susceptibility to anxiety-like behavior and fear, while others display resilience to such effects.

Knackstedt’s team has identified a particular brain receptor that seems to be responsible for making some rats more resilient to stress. This could be a clue to understanding why some people are better at handling stress and trauma than others. Knackstedt has also found that the rats who are more susceptible to stress are also more likely to relapse into cocaine use.

“Each of these projects taps an area of critical importance to public health and identifies factors that may be relevant to success in treatment versus relapse,” said psychology department Chair Julia Graber.
Knackstedt has had continuous NIH funding for her lab since she arrived at UF in 2012, including an NIDA R33 project which bridges the gap between human and animal models of polysubstance use.

Knackstedt is also a respected mentor and teacher who is committed to helping her students — undergraduate and graduate — succeed, with 80% of her publications featuring graduate or undergraduate student co-authors.

“Across the courses she has taught, Dr. Knackstedt has received excellent student and peer evaluations, demonstrating the high quality of her instructional activities,” Graber said.

Knackstedt was elected to the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2015 and she is a frequent reviewer of grants for NIH. Her service on prestigious review panels underscores her expertise and commitment to shaping the future of addiction research.

Knackstedt serves as an executive board member for the UF Center for Addiction Research and Education, contributes to the UF CTSI graduate fellowship advisory board, and plays a role in reviewing CLAS Opportunity Seed fund submissions.