Areas of Expertise

Drugs of Abuse, Sexual Motivation and Fertility


Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Dartmouth College 2003
PhD, University of Vermont 2000
BA, McGill University 1994


Visting Research Professor
The University of Texas at Ausitn
October 01, 2010 - December 31, 2020

Postdoctoral Fellow
Dartmouth College
June 01, 2000 - July 01, 2003

Teaching Philosophy

When I am in the lab, I believe the key to making research a great experience for students is equality. I engage in research with student collaborators. Although I have a deeper knowledge base and more technical skills than they have, once they learn the basics, I interact with them as if they were my colleagues. I take their comments and actions seriously and they take me seriously. Having such high expectations of my students has proved to be invaluable. Most of my students rise to the challenge and go above and beyond what is required. Subsequently they have reaped the benefits with publications, presentations, and grants. I have enjoyed teaching my students technical skills that they could apply to other opportunities (e.g., graduate school, jobs in biomedical research) and I have treasured nurturing their scientific thought through lively discussions about theories, data, research methods, and statistics. Because my own personal interest in research was fostered while I was an undergraduate student at McGill University, I believe a positive experience in the lab can shape a student’s future. When I am in the classroom, I believe that the key to making any course a great experience for students is enthusiasm. I try to bring excitement and enthusiasm into the classroom every day. Whether I am introducing first-year students to psychology or discussing neural plasticity in behavioral neuroscience to seniors, my goal is to make everyone in the classroom excited to be there. Since joining the faculty of Southwestern, I have been able to mentor many students who are interested in the intersection of psychology and biology. I have been able to foster close relationships with students, helping them navigate their interests in neuroscience. I have also cultivated personal relationships with students outside of the lab and the classroom. Many of the students who have worked with me in the lab or taken my courses become my advisees. They come to me for advice about what courses to take, careers to think about, the MCATS/GREs, as well as the trials and tribulations of being a college student. My career goals include being both a mentor and inspiration to my students in the classroom as well as in the laboratory.

Previous Courses

Behavioral Neuroscience

Human Sexuality

Principles of Psychology

Research Methods


During the past ten years, I have systematically investigated how drugs of abuse affect sexual motivation in the female rat. Consistent with the literature in humans, my laboratory has found that although most drugs of abuse increase dopamine release in the brain, some drugs of abuse disrupt female sexual behavior (e.g., d-amphetamine) whereas other drugs of abuse enhance sexual behavior (e.g., caffeine, methamphetamine).
Sexual behavior in the female rat is characterized by both receptive and solicitation behaviors. Receptive behavior is defined by the lordosis posture, which involves the dorsal flexion of the female rat’s back in response to a mount by a male rat. Female rats also engage in solicitation behaviors, which include hopping, darting, ear wiggling, and pacing of sexual stimulation 6. These behaviors function to “solicit” the attention of potential mates. If given the opportunity, a sexually receptive female will approach and withdraw from a sexually vigorous male, thereby controlling the timing of the receipt of sexual stimulation (i.e., mounts, intromissions, and ejaculations). This pattern is known as paced mating behavior (PMB). The pacing of sexual stimulation by the female can be observed under natural conditions or studied in the laboratory using a paced mating arena. In a paced mating arena, a sexually receptive female can approach and withdraw from a sexually vigorous male through small holes that only she fits through to mimic how rats mate in their natural habitat.
Although not commonly used to study animals that are promiscuous, we have recently been able to use a mate choice paradigm to further our understanding of the reinforcing properties of mating behavior in female rats. We have also been able to investigate the potential benefits of sexual motivation on reproductive success (Lovell et al., 2007; Zewail-Foote et al., 2009). For example, female rats spend significantly more time with one male when they are given an opportunity to mate with multiple males simultaneously. In general, a female rat will spend more than twice as much time with a preferred mate than with a non-preferred mate, as well as return quicker to a preferred mate than a non-preferred mate following sexual stimulation. In addition, female rats make more visits to, and receive more sexual stimulations from a preferred mate than a non-preferred mate.


PUBLISHED MANUSCRIPTS (* Denotes Undergraduate Student Co-Author; + Graduate Student Co-Authors)

33. Chu, X.+, Guarraci, F.A., Agmo, A. (2015) Sociosexual behaviors and reproductive success of rats (rattus norvegicus) in seminatural environment Physiology & Behavior

32. Johnson, Z*., Venters, J.*, Guarraci, F.A., Zewail-Foote, M. (2015) Methamphetamine induces DNA damage in specific regions of the female rat brain. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology xx:xx-xx.

31. Kumar, V.+, Vasudevans, A.+, Soh, L.J.T.+, Le Min, C.+, Vyas, A., Zewail-Foote, M., & Guarraci, F. A. (2015) Sexual attractiveness in male rats is associated with greater concentration of major urinary proteins Biology of Reproduction xx: xxx-xxx

30. Memos, N.K.*, Vela, R.*, Tabone, C.*, & Guarraci, F.A., (2014) Endocannabinoid influence on partner preference in female rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 124: 380-388.

29. Guarraci, F.A., Bolton, J.L. (2014) “Sexy Stimulants”: The Interaction Between Psychomotor Stimulants and Sexual Behavior in the Female Brain Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 121: 53-61.

28. Thibodeau, R.B.*, Ornelas, L.C.*, Romero, J.*, Memos, N.*, Scheible, M.*; Avila, A.*, Schumacher, A.*, Navarro, A.*, Zimmermann, K.*, Cuenod, B.A.*, Frohardt, R.J. & Guarraci, F.A. (2013) Acute withdrawal but not long-term withdrawal from methamphetamine affects sexual behavior in female rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 103: 701-709.

27. Bolton, J.L.*, Winland, C.*, Ford, B.*, Burbey, A., Zewail-Foote, M., Guarraci, F.A. (2012) Kin discrimination in prepubescent and adult Long-Evans rats. Behavioral Process 90: 415-419.

26. Winland, C.*, Bolton, J.L.*, Ford, B.*, Jampana, S.*, Tinker, J.*, Frohardt, R.J., Guarraci, F.A., Zewail-Foote, M. (2012) “Nice guys finish last”: Influence of mate choice on reproductive success in Long-Evans rats. Physiology & Behavior 105: 868-876.

25. Meerts, S.H.+, Guarraci, F.A. , Clark, A.S., (2011) An intact medial preoptic area is necessary for zaprinast to modulate paced mating behavior in female rats. Physiology & Behavior 105: 289-293.

24. Winland, C.*, Haycox, C.*, Bolton, J.L.*, Jampana, S.*, Oakley, B.J.*, Ford, B.*, Ornelas, L.*, Burbey, A.*, Marquette, A.*, Frohardt, R.J.,F.A. Guarraci (2011) Methamphetamine enhances sexual behavior in female rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 98: 575-582.

23. Guarraci, F.A. (2010) “Sex, Drugs and the Brain”: The interaction between drugs of abuse and female sexual motivation in the female rat. Hormones and Behavior 58: 138-148.

22. Clark, A.S., Meerts, S.H.+, Lang, K.E., Guarraci, F.A. (2009) Zaprinast, a phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitor, alters paced mating behavior in female rats. Physiology & Behavior 96: 289-293.

21. Zewail-Foote, M., Diehl, A.*, Benson, A.*, Lee, K.* and Guarraci, F.A. (2009) Reproductive success and mate choice in Long-Evans rats. Physiology & Behavior 96: 98-103.

20. Guarraci, F.A., Frohardt, R.J., Hines, D.*, Navaira, E.*, Smith, J.* and Wampler, L.* (2008) Intracranial infusions of amphetamine into the medial preoptic area but not the nucleus accumbens affect paced mating behavior in female rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 89: 253-262.

19. Stanzer, M.*, Guarraci, F., Giuliano, T. and Sims, A. (2007) Paramedic or EMT-basic partner? Study evaluates preferred partner types & the effect of partners on work-related stress levels. Journal of Emergency Medical Services 32: 72-74.

18. Lovell, J.*, Diehl, A.*, Joyce, E.*, Cohn, J.*, Lopez, J.*, and Guarraci, F.A. (2007) “Some Guys Have all the Luck”: Mate preference influences paced-mating behavior in female rats Physiology & Behavior 90: 537-544.

17. Guarraci, F.A. and Clark, A.S. (2006) Ibotenic acid lesions of the medial preoptic area disrupt the expression of partner preference in sexually receptive female rats Brain Research 1076:163-170.

16. Guarraci, F.A. and Benson, A.* (2005) “Coffee, Tea and Me”: Moderate doses of caffeine affect sexual behavior in female rats Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 82: 522-530.


Invited Presentations:

“Sex, Drugs, and Dopamine - A Recipe for Risk?” American Psychological Association August 2015 Convention Symposium Sponsored by Central Programming Groups 6, 28

Ponce University Seminar Series and NIH RISE grant program: “The Nexsis of Sex and Drugs: Animal Models” and “A Day in the Life of a Neuroscientist at a Small Liberal Arts Institution” September 2015

Baylor University Neuroscience Seminar Series: “Breaking Bad or Breaking Good: Drugs of Abuse and Sexual Motivation ” April 2015.

St. Edward’s University Biology Seminar Series: “Breaking Bad or Breaking Good: Drugs of Abuse and Sexual Motivation ” February 2015.

The Williamson Museum’s Salon Monthly Meeting: “let’s talk about sex” January 2015

Southwestern University Paideia Connections series “Breaking Bad or Breaking Good: Drugs of Abuse and Sexual Behavior” October 2014

The University of Texas, at Austin Behavioral Neuroscience Seminar Series ” Breaking Bad or Breaking Good: Drugs of Abuse and Sexual Behavior” September 2014

Texas Woman’s University Biology Colloquium Series 2011

University of Texas, Austin Behavioral Neuroscience Series “The Neurobiology of Female Reproductive Behavior” 2005

University of Texas, Health Science Center San Antonio Pharmacology Seminar Series “Should I Stay or Should I Go: The Neurobiology of Paced Mating Behavior” 2004

Southwestern University, Biology Department “Everything you always wanted to know about sex, rat sex that is”. 2009

Invited Panelist:

BRAINS: Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience, a national program to accelerate and improve the career advancement of neuroscience postdoctoral researchers and assistant professors from underrepresented groups University of Washington and NIH 2014

The University of Texas, Austin Graduate Student Assembly Careers in Academia Professional Dev. Week 2013

The University of Texas, Austin Women in Science Journey to Academia Panel Series 2007

Honors and Awards

Sam Taylor Award 2012

Mellon Interdisciplinary Research Award 2009

ACS Faculty Renewal Award 2009

Robert S. Daniel Award, Society for the Teaching of Psychology, Nomination 2008, 2009

Southwestern University Teaching Award 2007

Brown Junior Fellow, Southwestern University 2006-2007

Frank A. Beach Award, Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, Nomination 2006

Young Investigator Award, Southwestern University 2005-2006

Journal of Emergency Medical Services Research Award 2005 co-PI with student Melanie Stanzer $1,500

Society for Neuroscience Lay Research Summary (press release) 2005

Southwestern University Teaching Award Finalist 2005, 2006

Southwestern University Advising Award Finalist 2005

National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation 2004-2006 $ 173,000

National Institute of Mental Health Pre-Doctoral Individual National Research Service Award 1996-1999

Ronald Suiter Travel Award 1998

New York Academy of Sciences Junior Investigator Travel Award 1998

University of Vermont Graduate Research Award 1996

Teaching Fellow of the Year 1996-1997, University of Vermont

First Class Honors, McGill University 1994


American Psychological Association 1995-2000
Faculty in Undergraduate Neuroscience 2006-present
International Behavioral Neuroscience Society 2005-present
New York Academy of Sciences 1994-2000
Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology 2000-present
Society for Neuroscience1994- present
Women in Neuroscience 1997-present
Women in Endocrinology 2006-present


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