Graduate Studies Faculty

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Kari J. Buck, Ph.D.

Professor, Behavioral Neuroscience, OHSU
Scientist, VA Medical Center
Admin Unit: SOM-Behavioral Neuroscience Department
Phone: 503-220-8262, x56659
Lab Phone: 503-220-8262, x58014 or x57787
Fax: 503-220-3411
Office: VA Bldg 104, room G234
Mail Code: R&D40
Behavioral Neuroscience
Research Interests:
Neuroscience. Genetic predisposition to alcohol and drug self-administration, learning and reward, dependence and withdrawal. State-of-the-art genetic animal models (e.g., transgenic, RNAi, CRISPR), molecular and functional approaches to elucidate genetic determinants of these behaviors and therapeutic targets. These include genetic determinants of mitochondrial function and oxidative stressand the multiple PDZ domain protein (MPDZ/MUPP1) and its regulation of G-protein linked receptor mediated signal transduction. » PubMed Listing
Preceptor Rotations
Academic Term Available Summer 2016 Yes Fall 2016 Yes Winter 2016 Yes Spring 2016 Yes Summer 2017 Yes Fall 2017 Yes Winter 2017 Yes Spring 2017 Yes
Faculty Mentorship
Dr. Buck has not indicated availability as a mentor at this time.

Major Areas

  • The identification of translational genes involved in drug and alcohol reward and the negative consequence of their abuse.
  • The identification of the brain neural pathways by which these genes affect drug and alcohol reward, dependence, and withdrawal.
  • Rigorous testing of all of the above using novel genetic methods (e.g., RNA interference, knockout and transgenic animal models).
  • The application of these approaches to current and future translational genes/proteins (e.g., Mpdz/MUPP1, Kcnj9/GIRK3).
  • A new direction of the role mitochondrial function and oxidative stress in alcohol reward (CPP), dependence, and withdrawal.

Summary of Current Research

A host of biological (genetic) and environmental factors interact in a complex manner throughout the addictive process to influence drug and alcohol use/abuse and contribute to relapse. My research uses preclinical (animal) models that closely approximate aspects of the human clinical situation to elucidate the gene and neural networks involved in drug response. We utilize robust behavioral models of drug and alcohol reward (e.g., conditioned place preference (CPP) and voluntary consumption phenotypes), dependence, and withdrawal (e.g., anxiety and depression-like behaviors, brain excitability/seizures). We use state-of-the-art approaches (e.g., RNA interference, stereotaxic site-directed pharmacological manipulations) to identify and rigorously test the role of specific genes (often referred to as quantitative trait loci/genes), larger gene networks (e.g., involved in oxidative stress, and a network involved in G-protein coupled receptor mediated signaling), brain regions, and pathways (e.g., limbic and basal ganglia, including amygdala, striatum, anterior cingulate cortex, substantia nigra, and hippocampus) in drug and alcohol response (e.g., sedative and euphoric actions), reward, dependence, and withdrawal. In collaboration with Behavioral Neuroscience faculty we also use neuroelectrophysiological approaches. 

Recent Publications

  1. Milner LC, Shirley RL, Kozell LB, Walter NA, Kruse LC, Komiyama NH, Grant SGN, Buck KJ (2014). Novel MPDZ/MUPP1 transgenic and knockdown models confirm Mpdz's role in ethanol withdrawal and support its role in voluntary ethanol consumption. Addiction Biol (doi: 10.1111/abd.12087) [Epub ahead of print].
  2. Tipps ME, Raybuck JD, Buck KJ, Lattal M (2014). Delay and trace fear conditioning in C57BL/6 and DBA/2 mice: Issues of measurement and performance. Learning and Memory in press.
  3. Tipps ME, Raybuck JD, Buck KJ, Lattal M (2014). Acute ethanol withdrawal impairs contextual learning and enhances cued learning. Alcoholism Clin Exp Ther in press.
  4. Kruse L, Walter N, Buck KJ (2014). MPDZ RNA interference in the caudolateral substatia nigra pars reticulata mitigates ethanol withdrawal in mice. Genes Brain Behav in press.
  5. Buck KJ, Walter NAR, Denmark DL (2014). Genetic variability of respiratory complex abundance, organization, and activity in mouse brain. Genes Brain Behav 13: 135-143.
  6.  Buck KJ, Milner LC, Denmark DL, Grant SGN, and Kozell LB (2012). Discovering genes involved in alcohol dependence and other alcohol responses: role of animal models. Alcohol Res 34: 367-374.
  7.  Chen G and Buck KJ (2010). Rostroventral caudate putamen involvement in ethanol withdrawal is iinfluenced by a chromosome 4 locus. Genes Brain Behav 9: 768-776.
  8. Kozell LB, Walter NAR, Milner LC, Wickman K, Buck KJ (2009). Mapping a barbiturate withdrawal locus to a 0.44 Mb interval and analysis of a novel null mutant identifies a role for Kcnj9 (GIRK3) in withdrawal from pentobarbital, zolpidem, and ethanol. J Neurosci 29: 11662-11673.
  9. Chen G, Kozell LB, Hitzemann R, Buck KJ (2008). Involvement of the limbic basal ganglia in ethanol withdrawal convulsions in mice is influenced by a chromosome 4 locus. J Neurosci 28: 9840-9849.
  10. Shirley RS, Walter NAR, Reilly MT, Fehr C, Buck KJ (2004). Mpdz is a quantitative trait gene for drug withdrawal seizures. Nature Neuroscience 7: 699-700.


  • B.S. (1984) University of Minnesota
  • Ph.D. (1990) Colorado Health Sciences Center
  • Postdoctoral fellow (1990-91) Colorado Health Sciences Center (with Dr.  James Sikela)
  • Postdoctoral fellow (1991-94) Vollum Institute (with Drs. Oliver Civelli and Susan Amara, Howard Hughes Investigator)


  • 1995-2002. Assistant Professor, Medical Psychology/Behavioral Neuroscience, OHSU
  • 2002-2008. Associate Professor, Behavioral Neuroscience, OHSU, Portland, OR
  • 2002-present. VA Scientist, VAMC-Portland, OR
  • 2008-present. Professor, Behavioral Neuroscience, OHSU, Portland, OR

Non-Academic Interests

Kayaking, biking, gardening, standup comedy, mysteries, soccer mom