William L. Woolverton: A case history in unraveling the behavioral pharmacology of stimulants

Michael A. Nader, Robert L. Balster, Jack E. Henningfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Clinical findings suggest that the most promising strategy for cocaine addiction is a combination of indirect-acting monoamine agonists with some form of behavioral intervention. This approach can be traced back to preclinical research, some of which was conducted by William L. Woolverton. The goal of this brief review is to provide readers with an appreciation for the experimental breadth involving both behavior and pharmacology that encompassed Woolverton's amazing career, from the evaluation of abuse liability of drugs to the use of complex behavioral contingencies to better model the human condition. We begin with Woolverton's research using simple and complex schedules of reinforcement to evaluate abuse liability and how that has impacted current animal models. We also discuss his use of cocaine vs. food choice schedules of reinforcement as a model to evaluate potential medications for treating cocaine use disorders. Woolverton concluded that drug taking behavior was not "impulsive" and "out of control" as has often been proposed, but rather directly determined by the environmental contingencies and the context of its availability, providing a nuanced understanding of drug-behavior interactions. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled 'CNS Stimulants'

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-8
Number of pages5
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine
  • Drug choice
  • Drug self-administration
  • Rhesus monkey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology


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