Understanding Physiological Mechanisms of Opioid Addiction: Advancements in CNS and Respiratory Endpoint Measurement

Understanding Physiological Mechanisms of Opioid Addiction: Advancements in CNS and Respiratory Endpoint Measurement


Experts discuss physiological mechanisms behind the opioid epidemic and present their research on the effects of opioids on sleep and respiratory depression in preclinical mouse models.


The opioid crisis can be traced back to the 1990s. Amid rising demand for pain relief, pharmaceutical companies assured doctors that their drugs carried little risk of addiction, and doctors began prescribing them at a higher rate. Since then, prescription, production and misuse of opioids have risen dramatically. In 2017 alone, an estimated 1.7 million Americans suffered from substance abuse disorders involving prescription or illegal opioids, with some 47,000 deaths due to overdose. Clearly, more research is required to better understand and prevent opioid misuse.

In this webinar sponsored by Data Sciences International, Dr. Ralph Lydic and Dr. Tally Largent-Milnes discuss the role of respiratory and neuroscience research in addressing the opioid epidemic. Dr. Ralph Lydic, professor of neuroscience and co-director of anesthesiology research at the University of Tennessee, presents data demonstrating the systemic and neurological effects of opioids on breathing and sleep in rodent models. Following, Dr. Tally Largent-Milnes, assistant professor of pharmacology at the University of Arizona, presents research investigating how cannabinoid receptors modulate opioid-induced respiratory depression in rodent models.

Key discussion topics include:

  • How opiates induce changes in sleep and breathing
  • Animal model selection: which mouse lines are most suitable for preclinical respiratory research?
  • The scientific insight gained from simultaneously collecting plethysmography and telemetry signals in a single study
  • Brain chemistry as the basis of physiology and behavior
  • How opioids induce respiratory depression
  • Which cannabinoids, if any, induce respiratory depression in preclinical models
  • How the site of action determines how cannabinoid targeting agents interact with opioid-induced respiratory depression

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Ralph Lydic, Ph.D.

Professor of Neuroscience
Co-Director of Anesthesiology Research
University of Tennessee

Ralph Lydic, Ph.D. serves as Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology at University of Tennessee, and Professor Emeritus at University of Michigan. He holds a Joint Faculty appointment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Dr. Lydic is a neuroscientist and his research aims to achieve a better understanding of how the brain regulates sleep states and anesthesia, and elucidating the mechanisms by which sleep, opioids, and volatile anesthetics modulate pain and depress breathing and arousal.

Tally Largent-Milnes, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Pharmacology
University of Arizona

Dr. Largent-Milnes received her Ph.D. in Medical Pharmacology from the University of Arizona in 2010 and was an F32 funded postdoctoral fellow at Oregon Health and Science University in Physiology and Pharmacology. She returned to the University of Arizona to start her independent research program (2014). Her long-term research interests focus on how behavior is influenced by both disease pathology and pharmacotherapy. Overarching themes of the Largent-Milnes lab are to better understand the underlying neurophysiology and pathophysiology of chronic pain and drug misuse/abuse to develop novel therapeutics to improve patient quality of life. She has published 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts and is currently funded as a PI by NINDS and the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission and serves as a co-investigator on two NIDA grants.