Research in Action


Bridgewater College

Kynah Walston and Curtis Bradley in 2021 at the very start of their experiment. Bradley’s lab received the MARTIN grant to test substances with male mice.

Emily Wylie, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, Va. – Assistant Professor of Psychology Curtis Bradley is currently conducting a substance self-administration study with 24 female mice in the basement of Bowman Hall on Bridgewater College’s campus. 

“Doing research with Dr. Bradley has been great,” said Junior Dolan Nethercutt. “It’s really been teaching me the ins and outs of conducting research and has also shown me how to conduct animal research in a safe environment where the mouse isn’t getting harmed.”

The mice are separated into four groups – the first group has access to caffeinated water, the second group has access to alcohol and water, the third has access to caffeine and alcohol and the last group has access to alcohol and saccharine. 

“They are some of the very few beings on campus that are allowed to get intoxicated,” said Bradley. 

These mice are placed into an operant box for one hour where they press a lever and self-administer the substance, which goes straight to their heart. 

“They press the lever and then after about three heartbeats, the drug is in the brain,” said Bradley. “If it feels good or has high abuse potential, they will keep lever pressing.” 

In the early 2000s, the first caffeinated alcoholic beverage was made – which led to the rise of alcohol poisoning on college campuses. These beverages were shut down by the Food and Drug Administration. 

“We are trying to see if there is a difference between these mice groups and if it is indicative with what we saw with the caffeinated alcoholic beverages, which is where the data is leaning towards,” said Bradley.

Research shows that mixing alcohol and caffeine has many different outcomes: including alcohol poisoning, addiction and alcohol abuse. 

“It appears to affect young adults more so than any other population, which is actually seen in rodents as well,” said Bradley. As Bradley and his team collect their data, they plan to present their findings to ASPIRE, and to the Virginia Association for Psychological Sciences in April. If interested in joining Bradley’s team, email him at [email protected].