Kimberly Nixon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor,
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences

B.A., Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1992
Ph.D., Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience), The University of Texas at Austin, 2000
Postdoc, Molecular Neuropharmacology, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2005

Nixon Lab website:

Dr. Nixon and her lab

Dr. Nixon and her lab

Research Interests

The Nixon lab is interested in how excessive alcohol intake, characteristic of alcoholism, produces neurodegeneration but also how the brain recovers during abstinence. These interests have converged in the study of the role of neural stem cells in alcoholic neuropathology. The seminal discovery that neural stem cells produce newborn neurons in the adult brain (adult neurogenesis) has changed fundamentally the way we think about brain damage. Understanding the factors that regulate adult neurogenesis provides a new framework for understanding not only neurodegenerative disease but also regenerative effects that occurs during active alcohol dependence and abstinence respectively. The Nixon Lab uses cutting edge neuroanatomical, biochemical and behavioral techniques to identify the mechanism by which alcohol not only inhibits neural stem cell proliferation and adult neurogenesis during alcohol intoxication but also how it promotes neurogenesis in recovery and abstinence from alcoholism.

Major goals of the lab are to identify and understand the various signaling pathways involved in the recruitment of progenitors following binge-induced brain damage and how that endogenous pathway may be harnessed for pharmacological treatment of alcohol-induced neurodegeneration. Currently, we have three lines of research related to this and other NIH-funded projects:

  • Alcohol alteration of the neurogenic niche. The goal of this project is to describe the effect of alcohol on microglia and understand how alcohol-induced effects on microglia affect neural stem cells and the generation of new neurons.
  • Mechanisms of alcohol-induced neurodegeneration in the adolescent brain. This project initially investigated the role of neural stem cells in alcohol-induced neurodegeneration in an adolescent model of binge drinking and has migrated to understanding the role of inflammation in the development of alcohol use disorders in adolescence.
  • Development of novel therapeutics for alcoholism and specifically, alcohol-induced brain damage. Our areas of focus include endocannabinoids, antioxidants and exercise.

Select Media Items:

President Honors Outstanding Early-Career Scientists.PECASE press release, Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Pharmacy Professor Receives Presidential Award. Ann Blackford, UKnow 11/19/2010.

Bringing back the brain. Jeff Worley,University of Kentucky Odyssey, Winter 2009.

Select Publications

McClain, J.A., Morris, S.A., Deeny, M.A., Marshall, S.A., Hayes, D.M., Kiser, Z.M. Nixon, K. Adolescent binge alcohol exposure induces long-lasting partial activation of microglia. Brain Behavior and Immunity, in press.

Nixon, K. & McClain, J.A. (2010). Recent advances in the neurobiology of adolescent alcohol use disorders. Invited review. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 23, 227-232.

Leasure, J.L. & Nixon, K. (2010).  Exercise neuroprotection in a rat model of binge alcohol consumption. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 34, 404-414.

Nixon, K., Morris, S.A., Liput, D.J. & Kelso, M.L. (2010). Roles of neural stem cells and adult neurogenesis in adolescent alcohol use disorders.  Invited review, special issue on adolescence, D.B. Matthews (Ed.).  Alcohol, 44, 39-56.

Morris, S.A., Eaves, D.W., Smith, A.R. & Nixon, K. (2010). Inhibition of adult neurogenesis - a mechanism of hippocampal neurodegeneration in an adolescent alcohol abuse model. Hippocampus 20, 596-607.

Crews, F.T. & Nixon, K. (2009).  Mechanisms of neurodegeneration and regeneration in alcoholism.  Invited Review.  Special Issue of Alcohol & Alcoholism: Alcohol Related Brain Damage 44, 115-27.

Stevenson, J.R., Schroeder, J.P., Nixon, K., Besheer, J., Crews, F.T. & Hodge, C.W. (2009). Abstinence from alcohol drinking produces depression-like behavior and reduced hippocampal neurogenesis in mice. Neuropsychopharmacology 34, 1209-1222.

Nixon, K., Kim, D.H., Potts, E.N., He, J. & Crews, F.T. (2008). Distinct cell proliferation events during abstinence after alcohol dependence: microglia proliferation precedes neurogenesis. Neurobiology of Disease 31, 218-229.

Nixon, K. (2006). Alcohol and adult neurogenesis: Roles in neurodegeneration and recovery from chronic alcoholism. Invited review. Hippocampus 16, 287-295.

Nixon, K. Crews, F.T. (2004). Temporally specific burst in cell proliferation increases hippocampal neurogenesis in protracted abstinence from alcohol. The Journal of Neuroscience 24, 9714-9722.

Nixon, K. & Crews, F.T. (2002). Binge alcohol exposure decreases neurogenesis in adult rat hippocampus. Journal of Neurochemistry 83, 1087-1093.


Kimberly Nixon

Contact Information

College of Pharmacy
789 S. Limestone
Lexington, KY 40536-0596

Tel: (859) 323-3038
Fax: (859) 323-3575