Dr. Onarae Rice

Biography | Curriculum Vitae | Research Description


Onarae was born and raised in Spartanburg, S.C. He graduated from Wofford College with a B.S. in Psychology. While at Wofford, he interned for a semester at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Long Island, NY. After graduating, he accepted a job in the medical department at BNL and later began to pursue a M.A. in Biopsychology from near by, Stony Brook University.

While working at BNL, he completed a Ph.D. in Biopyschology from Stony Brook University where he studied the brain's endogenous cannabinoid system and its potential role in mediating, or modulating, the rewarding properties of various classes of abusive drugs. Onarae specifically used a CB1 Knockout mouse model (mice whose cannabinoid receptor has been genetically "removed") to help understand its role in addiction. A portion of he and his colleague's findings were published in Brain Research and Behavioral Brain Research.

Onarae conducted his Post-doctoral research at BNL, but on a different project. He worked on a NASA funded project to explore potential radiation damage to the central nervous system (CNS) due to exposure to space radiation. As NASA plans to send man to Mars, astronauts will be subjected to various types of space radiation that could be potentially detrimental to them, in both the short and long-term, during their 3 year mission to and from Mars. Onarae used a rodent model, several behavioral assays, and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to address this problem.

At Furman, Onarae continues to employ a battery of behavioral assays and neural imaging techniques to better understand drug addiction and the role of various receptors in this process. He is currently working on three projects:

1) Project one is an attempt to characterize the relationship, if any, between acute or chronic ethanol intake on brain glucose utilization and the brain's endogenous cannabinoid system. This is important for further education of ethanol's effects on the brain.

2) Project two is an evaluation of the appetitive nature of toluene, the reinforcing property in most abuse inhalants (i.e. glue). "Huffing", a term used for inhalant abuse of various compounds containing toluene, is on the rise amongst adolescents. This project is important for identifying toluene as a gateway drug, in addition to characterizing its effects on the brain.

3) Project three explores the brain's D3 receptor's involvement in natural rewards like novelty. This may have implications for identifying the role of the D3 receptor as a major player in our brain's reward circuits.

Back to top

Research Description

My primary program of research investigates the role of the brain's endogenous cannabinoid system on the rewarding properties of various abusive drugs. Many labs, mine included, have published data that suggest that the brain's cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor is involved in helping to signal pleasure for many drugs of abuse. The specific mechanism of action for the CB1 receptor's effect is not fully understood and there are other abusive drugs that need to be tested within this model. In addition, it is not clear if the same effects are present in adolescent brains that are seen in adult brains. Perhaps adolescent drug use alters the brain pathways such that it increases an individual's chances of becoming an adult abuser. Therefore, my lab focuses on adolescent binge drinking alcohol and inhalant abuse - with the idea that the CB1 receptor is critical during this stage of development. Both of these drugs are on the rise in adolescents and many adult users reported that they started out using either drug. Elucidating the role of the CB1 receptor in abuse is important for understanding how the brain signals reward and for the future development of new treatments for those struggling with addiction.

Back to top

Connect with Admission

Furman is one of the nation's premier liberal arts and sciences universities. We offer our students The Furman Advantage—an over-arching approach to education that promises every student a four-year personalized pathway, a team of advisors and mentors, and the opportunity for an engaged learning experience that is tracked and integrated with the students' academic and professional goals.

Want more information about the admission process at Furman?

Contact us

Once you see our campus, making the right college decision will be so much easier.

Plan a visit

Undergraduate Evening Studies provides adults the opportunity to receive an education from one of the premier liberal arts universities in the nation.

Whether you are starting or continuing your education, or have been away from the classroom for a few months or several years, our program provides many services to assist you with accomplishing your educational and professional goals.

Apply now

Our graduate studies program is designed for the professional educator.

We know the challenges teachers and administrators face every day, and we are committed to helping you become a leader within your school system or district.

Apply now
  • Furman University