Ella M. Nikulina


University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix ABC-1 Building 425 North 5th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004
AZ Biomedical Collaborative 1
Associate Professor
Associate Professor - Basic Medical Sciences
Basic Medical Sciences


  • DSc: Physiology, Moscow State University, 1992
  • PhD: Biology, Moscow State University, 1977

Representative Recent Publications

  • Wang J, Bastle RM & Nikulina EM (2017). VTA BDNF enhances social stress-induced compulsive cocaine bingeing. Oncotarget. Vol. 8(4), 5668-5669.
  • Wang J, Bastle RM, Bass CE, Hammer RP Jr, Neisewander JL & Nikulina EM (2016). Overexpression of BDNF in the ventral tegmental area enhances binge cocaine self-administration in rats exposed to repeated social defeat. Neuropharmacology. Vol. 109, 121-130.
  • Hoffman AN, Parga A, Paode PR, Watterson LR, Nikulina EM, Hammer RP Jr & Conrad CD (2015). Chronic stress enhanced fear memories are associated with increased amygdala zif268 mRNA expression and are resistant to reconsolidation. Neurobiol Learn Mem. Vol. 120, 61-68.
  • Johnston CE, Herschel DJ, Lasek AW, Hammer RP Jr & Nikulina EM (2015). Knockdown of ventral tegmental area mu-opioid receptors in rats prevents effects of social defeat stress: implications for amphetamine cross-sensitization, social avoidance, weight regulation and expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Neuropharmacology. Vol. 89, 325-334.
  • Wang J, Bina RW, Wingard JC, Terwilliger EF, Hammer RP Jr & Nikulina EM (2014). Knockdown of tropomyosin-related kinase B receptor expression in the nucleus accumbens shell prevents intermittent social defeat stress-induced cross-sensitization to amphetamine in rats. Eur J Neurosci. Vol. 39(6), 1009-1017.
Research Interests
Social Stress, Neurotrophin 3, Cross-sensitization
Research Summary
My research is to study the mechanisms of social stress-induced prolonged sensitivity to psychostimulants. Social defeat stress in rats is a relevant model to investigate the neurochemical mechanisms related to humans. We have identified transient expression of functional mu-opioid receptors in the ventral tegmental area that increases the induction of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which triggers the transition to long-lasting drug cross-sensitization.