About the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Lab

Jennifer Loftis (Left) Marilyn Huckans (Right)

Principal investigators

Marilyn Huckans, Ph.D.
Jennifer M. Loftis, Ph.D.


The PNI Research Lab utilizes unique cross-species and translational methods designed to guide and inform one another and to ensure rapid progress from bench to bedside. We are funded through NIH and VA grants. Specific areas of interest include:

  • Investigating the relationships among cytokine-induced neuropsychiatric symptoms and associated changes in neurotransmitter systems, stress hormones, and neuronal plasticity and integrity.
  • Characterizing the effects of addiction on peripheral and central immune function, and developing and testing immunotherapies as a novel approach to addiction medicine. For example, the PNI Research Laboratory is currently evaluating the efficacy of peptide-based immunotherapies for the treatment of methamphetamine-induced cognitive impairments and neuroinflammation.    
  • The use of novel pharmacotherapies for the treatment or prevention of cytokine-induced psychiatric symptoms and sickness behavior (in animal models). 
  • Identifying genetic and neuroimmune biomarkers associated with cytokine-induced depression and cognitive impairment, such as the role of p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase. Through the phosphorylation of other proteins, p38 MAP kinase can upregulate message transcription and increase protein expression of inflammatory mediators hypothesized to contribute to depressive symptoms.