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Sherry McKee PhD Clin

Professor of Psychiatry; Director, Yale Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory; Clinical Director, FORDD Addiction Clinic

Research Interests

Behavioral pharmacology; Gender differences; Medication development; Medication screening; Alcohol; Tobacco;

Current Projects

  • Translational and interdisciplinary team that probes the noradrenergic system’s effects on stress-reactivity and nicotine reinforcement to develop gender-sensitive medication for tobacco dependence. Specific studies range from molecular biology through to policy investigations covering T1 to T4 translation.
  • Development of human laboratory models to screen Phase II medications for tobacco and alcohol use
  • Phase II clinical trial and human laboratory studies targeting stress-reactivity for medication development for alcohol use disorders and tobacco dependence
  • Laboratory studies examining whether nAChR agents alter alcohol self-administration behavior

Research Summary

Tobacco and alcohol use are leading causes of preventable morbidity and mortality, with 530,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone. My laboratory has focused on the development of clinical and translational research for these two addictive disorders, for the purpose of translating these findings into effective therapeutics for women and men. We have a translational and interdisciplinary team that probes the noradrenergic system’s effects on stress-reactivity and nicotine reinforcement - hypothesizing that different brain systems modulated by noradrenergic activity are activated by smoking in women and men, and that noradrenergic agents can preferentially target these gender-sensitive systems to improve smoking cessation outcomes (P50DA0335945 funded by the Office of Research on Women’s Health and NIDA). Secondly, our work is focused on developing and utilizing human laboratory paradigms to efficiently and cost-effectively screen Phase II medications for tobacco dependence. These paradigms are designed to model the first instance of smoking during a quit attempt (i.e., smoking lapse), to identify mechanisms underlying relapse, and to highlight important group differences (i.e., sex differences) in relapse. As a third focus, we translate knowledge of alcohol-tobacco interactions to alter alcohol drinking. This work examines how smoking status can be used as a clinical indicator for alcohol misuse, how tobacco policies reduce alcohol use, and how nicotinic acetylcholine medications can be used to treat alcohol use disorders.


Selected Publications

  • McKee, S.A & Weinberger, A.H. Using our knowledge of alcohol-tobacco interactions to reduce alcohol use. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 2013, 9:649-674.
  • Weinberger, A.H., Mazure, C.M., Morlett, A., McKee, S.A. Two decades of smoking cessation treatment research on smokers with depression: 1990-2010. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 2013, 15: 1014-1031.
  • McKee, S.A., Weinberger, A.H., Shi, J., Tetrault, J., Coppola, S. Developing and validating a human laboratory model to screen medications for smoking cessation. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 2012, 11: 1362-1371.
  • McKee, S.A., Harrison, E.L.R., O’Malley, S.S., Krishnan-Sarin, S., Shi, J., Tetrault, J.M., Picciotto, M., Petrakis, I.L., Estevez, N., Balchunas, E. Varenicline reduces alcohol self-administration in heavy drinking smokers. Biological Psychiatry, 2009, 66: 185-90.
  • McKee, S.A., Falba, T., O’Malley, S.S., Sindelar, J., O’Connor, P.G. Smoking status is a clinical indicator for alcohol misuse in US adults. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2007, 167: 716-721.

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