Department of Psychology

Department of


Department of


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Mary C. Olmstead, PhD
Department of Psychology
Centre for Neuroscience Studies
Queen's University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6
T: 613-533-6208  F: 613-533-2499 

Research Team

Post Doctoral Fellows


Patrick Grenier


Patrick Grenier

BSc Bishop’s University (2008)
MSc Queen’s University (2010)
PhD Queen’s University (2016)

Area of research: While opioids are highly efficacious in the treatment of acute nociceptive pain, their usefulness in the treatment of chronic pain states is limited by the development of tolerance, unpleasant side effects, and risk of dependence. My research focuses on the biochemistry, pharmacology and neurophysiology of chronic pain states, changes in opioid and noradrenergic receptor systems following nerve injury, and the role of immune cells in modulating the sensory and affective components of pain processing and reward.

Awatif Albaker

Awatif Albaker

BSc King Saud University (2003)
MSc King Saud University (2008)
PhD University of Ottawa (2016)

Area of research: I am interested in studying the neuropharmacology of brain disorders, what makes a human being distinctive from other species, what makes humans able to have emotions and retain memory, what would happen if a brain circuit was interrupted, what are the consequences in case the neurochemical supply in the brain is reduced or diminished, why patients with different brain diseases lack the correct interplay between their brain and body, and why these individuals exhibit “asynchrony”.  Through my Ph.D. research, my concern was on studying the effect of the structural interplay between different regions of D1-class receptors on the receptor functionality and signaling pathway. The ultimate purpose of my research was to unravel the molecular microswitch within the D1-class receptors controlling the receptor functionality hoping to synthesize a direct and a selective compound targeting the receptor internally without the side effects associated with the classical neuroleptic treatment. During my postdoctoral study, I will take advantage of using the readily available model for binge eating as a model for addictive and impulsivity-like properties. I will focus on showing that D1R and μ-receptor heterodimerize specifically in the NAc shell, how this dimerization phenomenon influences the signaling pathway of these two receptors, and how adjunct treatment with D1R-antagonist and μ-receptor antagonist could affect binge eating.

Graduate Students

Steve Lamontaigne

Steven Lamontagne

BSc Queen's University (2015)
MSc Queen’s University (2017)

Area of research: On a general level, I am interested in the behavioural and neurological underpinnings of drug addiction and how these relate to relapse.  During my undergraduate studies, I used a rat model of early adversity to test how intermittent variable stress during mid-adolescence alters sensitivity to amphetamine in adulthood.  I also worked with a rat model of sucrose bingeing which produces similar neurobiological changes to those observed following cocaine self-administration.  As part of this project, I investigated the role of early adversity on compulsive responding for a sucrose reward.  I am following up this work by examining the role of the female rat estrus cycle on sucrose bingeing and compulsive responding for sucrose.  

During my graduate studies, I will be continuing my work on animal models of addiction by investigating the role of the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system, specifically the ventral tegmental area (VTA) projections to the nucleus accumbens, in the development and maintenance of drug addiction.  Part of this work involves an investigation of the role of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), which has been implicated in excessive food consumption, as well as other goal-directed behaviours that might become maladaptive.  In combination with behavioural measures, I will use immunohistochemistry to explore these brain areas, along with other areas that are critical in processing reward perception.

Madison Mailhiot

Madison Mailhiot

BSc Queen’s University (2017)

Area of research: I am interested in studying the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie and contribute to the development of drug addiction. More specifically, I study how processes such as reward, tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal influence compulsive responding for addictive substances, such as drugs or food. In my undergraduate thesis, I examined how distinct neurobiological systems mediate morphine reward in chronic pain and pain-naïve states. I will continue this line of research in my graduate studies in order to gain a greater understanding of the role that reward mechanisms play in the addictive potential of analgesic drugs.

Peiying Jian

Peiying Jian

BSc University of Toronto (2018)

Area of research: My general interest is in studying the fundamental processes that underlie addictive behaviours. I am interested in understanding questions such as: Is addiction dysfunctional learning? Is it a disease? How do relapse and compulsion interact? How does habitual drug use decline? I will approach these questions using a combination of theoretical and computational modeling. The goal of my research is to propose a plausible and well-constructed theory of addiction and relapse. With this basis, I aim to create a computational model representing addiction, which can be examined and optimized with experimental data.

Savannah Lightfoot

Savannah Lightfoot

BSc Carleton University (2018)

Area of research: I am interested in studying the behavioural and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie drug addiction. I am focusing on anhedonia which reflects a deficit in reward processing and is a common feature of many psychiatric disorders, including substance abuse. Currently, I am studying how inflammation influences anhedonia and whether this interaction involves the endocannabinoid system. I am using a rodent test of anhedonia (probability of reinforcement task; PRT) and examining the distribution of cannabinoid receptors in brain reward sites, including the oval bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (ovBNST).

Graduates of the Olmstead Lab

Doctoral Students

Ashley Vanstone
PhD (2017)
Co-supervisor Prof. Lola Cuddy
Clinical Psychologist
Kingston ON Canada

Sylvia Nay 
MSc (2010), PhD (2015)
Registered Psychologist
GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre
Vancouver BC Canada

Megan Mahoney
MSc (2009), PhD (2014)
Operations Manager
Ottawa Virus Manufacturing Facility
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Ottawa ON Canada

Bonnie Purcell
PhD (2013)
Clinical Psychologist
Geriatric Mental Health Program
London Health Sciences Centre
London ON Canada

Scott Hayton
MSc (2007), PhD (2011)
Associate Management Consultant
McKinsey & Company
Toronto ON Canada

Iris Balodis
MA (2003), PhD (2007)
Assistant Professor
Dept. Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences
McMaster University
Hamilton ON Canada

Jay Paquette
MA (2002), PhD (2007)
Research Scientist
Pharmacology and Drug Development
Neuromed Pharmaceuticals
Vancouver BC Canada

Stephanie Hancock
MA (2003), PhD (2008 MUN)
Associate Professor
Dept. Psychology
University of Lethbridge
Lethbridge AB Canada

Tracie A. Paine
MA (2001), PhD (2004)
Associate Professor
Dept. of Neuroscience
Oberlin College
Oberlin OH USA

Kim G. C. Hellemans
MA (2000), PhD (2003)
Associate Professor
Dept. of Neuroscience
Carleton University
Ottawa ON Canada

Masters Students

Rachel Smail-Crevier (MSc 2016)

Apostolia Petropoulou (MSc 2010)

Joanna Pohl (MA 2006)

Lisa Bradford (MA 2004)

Catherine Ortner (MA 2001)