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Fair Vassoler - PhD

Fair Vassoler
Assistant Professor
Neuroscience, addiction, transgenerational epigenetic models
Neuroscience and Reproductive Biology

Campus Phone:
(508) 887-4256

The United States is in the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic. It is the goal of my research to uncover molecular changes that mediate opioid addiction and relapse. I utilize the behavioral model of self-administration and reinstatement in rodents to discover neural changes in both coding and non-coding RNAs. The discovery of such changes can lead to novel therapeutic options to treat addiction as well as potential biomarkers for individualized care.

In addition, the effect that widespread opioid use in one generation has on future generations is unknown. It is clear, however, that environmental exposures including diet, toxins, and drugs of abuse, do impact future progeny. Therefore, another direction of my research is aimed at determining the impact of exposure to drugs of abuse in one generation on addiction-like behaviors in subsequent generations. Moreover, we examine epigenetic alterations at the level of the gamete and the blastocyst to determine the mechanisms by which these changes are transmitted.


  • PhD – University of Pennsylvania, 2012
  • MA – Boston University School of Medicine, 2008
  • BA – Boston University, 2004
  1. Byrnes, E.M., Vassoler, F.M. 2018. Modeling prenatal opioid exposure in animals: Current findings and future directions. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology.
  2. Vassoler, F.M., Oranges, M.L., Toorie, A.M., Byrnes, E.M. 2018. Oxycodone self-administration during pregnancy disrupts the maternal-infant dyad and decreases midbrain OPRM1 expression during early postnatal development in rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior.
  3. Vassoler, F.M., Toorie, A.M., Byrnes, E.M. 2018. Transgenerational blunting of morphine-induced corticosterone secretion is associated with dysregulated gene expression in male offspring. Brain Research.
  4. Vassoler, F.M., Oliver, D.J., Wyse, C., Blau, A., Shtutman, M., Turner, J.R., Byrnes, E.M. 2017. Transgenerational attenuation of opioid self-administration as a consequence of adolescent morphine exposure. Neuropharmacology.
  5. Bodi, C.M., Vassoler, F.M., Byrnes, E.M. 2016. Adolescent experience affects postnatal ultrasonic vocalizations and gene expression in future offspring. Developmental Psychobiology.
  6. White, S.L., Vassoler, F.M., Schmidt, H.D., Pierce, R.C., Wimmer, M.E. 2016. Enhanced anxiety in the male offspring of sires that self-administered cocaine. Addiction Biology.
  7. Vassoler, F.M., Wright, S.J., Byrnes, E.M. 2016. Exposure to opiates in female adolescents alters mu opiate receptor expression and increases the rewarding effects of morphine in future offspring. Neuropharmacology.
  8. Bless, E.P., Yang, J., Acharya, K.D., Nettles, S.A., Vassoler, F.M., Byrnes, E.M., Tetel, M.J. 2016. Adult neurogenesis in the female mouse hypothalamus: Estradiol and high-fat diet alter the generation of newborn neurons expressing estrogen receptor α. eNeuro.
  9. Vassoler, F.M., Sadri-Vakili, G. 2014. Mechanisms of transgenerational inheritance of addictive-like behaviors. Neuroscience.
  10. Akay, C., Cooper, M., Odeleye, A., Jensen, B.K., White, M.G., Vassoler, F., Gannon, P.J., Mankowski, J., Dorsey, J.L., Buch, A.M., Cross, S.A., Cook, D.R., Peña, M.-M., Andersen, E.S., Christofidou-Solomidou, M., Lindl, K.A., Zink, M.C., Clements, J., Pierce, R.C., Kolson, D.L., Jordan-Sciutto, K.L. 2014. Antiretroviral drugs induce oxidative stress and neuronal damage in the central nervous system. Journal of NeuroVirology.
  11. Pierce, R.C., Vassoler, F.M. 2014. Reduced cocaine reinforcement in the male offspring of cocaine-experienced sires. Neuropsychopharmacology.
  12. Vassoler, F.M., Johnson-Collins, N.L., Carini, L.M., Byrnes, E.M. 2014. Next generation effects of female adolescent morphine exposure: Sex-specific alterations in response to acute morphine emerge before puberty. Behavioural Pharmacology.
  13. Vassoler, F.M., Byrnes, E.M., Pierce, R.C. 2014. The impact of exposure to addictive drugs on future generations: Physiological and behavioral effects. Neuropharmacology.
  14. Vassoler, F.M., Johnson, N.L., Byrnes, E.M. 2013. Female adolescent exposure to cannabinoids causes transgenerational effects on morphine sensitization in female offspring in the absence of in utero exposure. Journal of Psychopharmacology.
  15. Pierce, R.C., Vassoler, F.M. 2013. Deep brain stimulation for the treatment of addiction: Basic and clinical studies and potential mechanisms of action. Psychopharmacology.
  16. Vassoler, F.M., White, S.L., Hopkins, T.J., Guercio, L.A., Espallergues, J., Berton, O., Schmidt, H.D., Christopher Pierce, R. 2013. Deep brain stimulation of the nucleus accumbens shell attenuates cocaine reinstatement through local and antidromic activation. Journal of Neuroscience.
  17. Challis, C., Boulden, J., Veerakumar, A., Espallergues, J., Vassoler, F.M., Christopher Pierce, R., Beck, S.G., Berton, O. 2013. Raphe GABAergic neurons mediate the acquisition of avoidance after social defeat. Journal of Neuroscience.
  18. White, S.L., Schmidt, H.D., Vassoler, F.M., Pierce, R.C. 2013. Acute cocaine increases phosphorylation of CaMKII and GluA1 in the dorsolateral striatum of drug naïve rats, but not cocaine-experienced rats. Neuroscience Letters.
  19. Vassoler, F.M., White, S.L., Schmidt, H.D., Sadri-Vakili, G., Christopher Pierce, R. 2013. Epigenetic inheritance of a cocaine-resistance phenotype. Nature Neuroscience.
  20. Ortinski, P.I., Vassoler, F.M., Carlson, G.C., Pierce, R.C. 2012. Temporally dependent changes in cocaine-induced synaptic plasticity in the nucleus accumbens shell are reversed by D1-like dopamine receptor stimulation. Neuropsychopharmacology.

General Research Interests

  • Neuroscience
  • Addiction
  • Transgenerational Epigenetics
  • Extracellular Vessicles
  • The role of microRNAs in addiction

Selected Research Projects

  • The effects of adolescent exposure to morphine on subsequent generations
  • How oxycodone changes miRNA expression within the brain and extracellular vesicles in the plasma and cerebral spinal fluid
  • The mechanism by which environmental exposure in one generation can be transmitted to subsequent offspring

Research and Clinical Interests

  • Opiate addiction and how exposure in one generation can impact future offspring
  • Mechanisms of experience-driven changes in gene expression within an individual and in future progeny


  • Problem Based Learning
  • Cell and Tissue Type
  • Veterinary Neurobiology