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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. Wlodarczyk-Li, S.A., Vassoler, F.M., Byrnes, E.M., Schonhoff, C.M. 2020. Oxycodone Decreases Dendritic Complexity in Female but not Male Rat Striatal Neurons In Vitro. Neuroscience Letters.
  2. Vassoler, F.M., Toorie, A.M., Teceno, D.N., Walia, P., Moore, D.J., Patton, T.D., Byrnes, E.M. 2020. Paternal morphine exposure induces bidirectional effects on cocaine versus opioid self-administration. Neuropharmacology.
  3. Mair, L.O., Weinberg, I.N., Teceno, D.N., Jafari, S., Sun, D., Stepanov, P., Hale, O., Ropp, C., Vassoler, F.M. 2019. Rat Behavioral Changes Due to Implanted Magnetic Particles Activated with Externally-Applied Magnetic Fields. International IEEE/EMBS Conference on Neural Engineering, NER.
  4. Wimmer, M.E., Vassoler, F.M., White, S.L., Schmidt, H.D., Sidoli, S., Han, Y., Garcia, B.A., Pierce, R.C. 2019. Impaired cocaine-induced behavioral plasticity in the male offspring of cocaine-experienced sires. European Journal of Neuroscience.
  5. Vassoler, F.M., Toorie, A.M., Byrnes, E.M. 2019. Increased cocaine reward in offspring of females exposed to morphine during adolescence. Psychopharmacology.
  6. Vassoler, F.M., Toorie, A.M., Byrnes, E.M. 2019. Multi-, Inter-, and Transgenerational Effects of Drugs of Abuse on Behavior. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences.
  7. Toorie, A.M., Vassoler, F.M., Qu, F., Schonhoff, C.M., Bradburn, S., Murgatroyd, C.A., Slonim, D.K., Byrnes, E.M. 2019. A history of opioid exposure in females increases the risk of metabolic disorders in their future male offspring. Addiction Biology.
  8. Byrnes, E.M., Vassoler, F.M. 2018. Modeling prenatal opioid exposure in animals: Current findings and future directions. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Bodi, C.M., Vassoler, F.M., Byrnes, E.M. 2016. Adolescent experience affects postnatal ultrasonic vocalizations and gene expression in future offspring. Developmental Psychobiology.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Vassoler, F.M., Sadri-Vakili, G. 2014. Mechanisms of transgenerational inheritance of addictive-like behaviors. Neuroscience.
  17. 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.
  18. Pierce, R.C., Vassoler, F.M. 2014. Reduced cocaine reinforcement in the male offspring of cocaine-experienced sires. Neuropsychopharmacology.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.

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

Research Interests by Area

Neuroscience and Reproductive Biology
  • Animal Models of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders

    Animal models of are frequently used to elucidate disease mechanisms and identify potential therapeutic targets. A large number of preclinical models of psychiatric disorders have been developed in rodents. Additionally, spontaneous clinical models of psychiatric disorders, such as separation anxiety and compulsive disorder, have been documented in dogs. With regard to neurological disorders, conditions such as stroke, can be induced in rodent models and are also observed clinically in companion animals. Information regarding genetic predisposition, sex-specificity, and age-related factors can also be assessed using these types of animal models. Learn more

  • Transgenerational Epigenetics

    Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance involves the transmission of traits from one generation to the next in the absence of underlying changes in primary DNA structure.  In this manner, the experience of the parent can induce genetic modifications in their future offspring and beyond. It has been hypothesized that such rapid inheritance may be adaptive as it essentially prepares future generations for environmental conditions as predicted by parental experience. The mechanisms underlying transgenerational epigenetic inheritance include processes that regulate gene expression, including DNA methylation and expression of small, non-coding RNAs. Our understanding of how these epigenetic modifications are transmitted from one generation to the next remains quite limited. Learn more.