Erica Levitt, Ph.D., joins Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics


Prescription opioid overdose is increasing at a rapid rate. Respiratory depression is the primary cause of death from opioid overdose, yet surprisingly little is known about the mechanisms of opioid-induced respiratory depression. A network of neurons that are primarily situated in the brainstem controls breathing. Dr. Levitt is interested in understanding how opioids modulate these neurons to cause breathing disturbances. A variety of cellular and systems level approaches, including brain slice electrophysiology, single unit and whole nerve recordings from a unique preparation with an intact respiratory network and in vivo-like respiratory cycle, and plethysmography in awake animals are used in pursuit of this goal.