Home Feedback Contents Search CV

M. Christopher Newland Ph.D.





Alumni Professor

Behavioral Toxicology and Pharmacology

Department of Psychology

226 Thach Hall

Auburn University

Alabama, 36849




Curriculum Vita

horizontal rule

Research Activities

Behavior Analysis
Experimental Models of Abnormal Development and Aging.
Mouse models of choice and self-control in adolescence and adulthood.
Neurobehavioral Toxicity of Methylmercury
Mouse strain differences in advanced operant behavior.

My students and I investigate basic principles of operant (basically, voluntary) behavior and how these principles help us to understand the behavioral impact of development, drug or chemical exposure, or genetic background.

Adolescence, for example, is a time when  important processes, including making effective choices, taming impulsivity and promoting self-control mature. We are attempting to model these processes in mice both as adults and during their very brief adolescent period.

We are examining the role of genetic predispositions on operant behavior, both in adolescence and in adults, by taking advantage of the different mouse strains that are available for study. One question that has interested us the extent to which these strain differences are expressed in behavior and whether these strain differences are overcome, or amplified, by experience.

We have learned that developmental exposure to a compound, methylmercury, that perturbs the development of the brain can have life-long effects on voluntary behavior and, especially, the expression of choice. Using animal models we are exploring the possibility that this is linked to a basic perturbation in the sensitivity of behavior to reinforcing consequences and its mediation by a neurotransmitter, dopamine. Thus, we bring together basic principles of behavior analysis, psychopharmacology, and environmental neurotoxicology to gain an an understanding of abnormal development.

Aging is the other side of development, and we have also explored how contaminant exposures, even very early in development, have effects that become apparent only as aging takes its toll. In fact, early exposures can actually hasten the onset of aging.

One model that we have been working with is methylmercury, a neurotoxic substance found in fish. Our research suggests that exposure to very low levels can have subtle and long-lasting effects on behavioral. This is important in discussing the extent to which people can safely consume methylmercury-containing foods, such as certain fish.


horizontal rule


In my teaching, like in my research, I link what we know about behavior to other areas of science, and especially the neurosciences. Topics that I teach include Graduate Biopsychology  (yearly), Behavioral Pharmacology (yearly), Behavioral Effects of Environmental Contaminants (bi-annually), Context and Consequences of Behavior (about every three years). The teaching link will get to other courses.

horizontal rule

Contact Information

334 844 6479
334 844-4447
Postal address
Experimental Psychology, Thach Hall, Auburn University, Alabama, USA 36849
Electronic mail


Send mail to newlamc@auburn.edu with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: July 08, 2010