Jennifer M. Loftis
As a VA career development award recipient, Dr. Loftis identified a novel role for cytokines in the etiology of depressive symptoms in adults with chronic hepatitis C viral infection. This finding has guided the subsequent testing of hypotheses regarding how circulating inflammatory cytokines affect central nervous system functioning. Her translational research program investigates the biological mechanisms contributing to neuropsychiatric impairments in the context of substance use disorders and co-morbid viral infections, with a particular focus on pharmacotherapeutic treatment development. These studies have identified molecular targets (e.g., glutamatergic receptors and inflammatory signaling pathways) and specific brain regions involved in drug-induced neuroadaptation and the adverse behavioral effects that contribute to addiction. Preclinical studies are being conducted to test the safety and efficacy of a new immunotherapy to treat methamphetamine use disorder. To support these research efforts, Dr. Loftis has been awarded grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and local foundations. She has authored over 85 peer-reviewed publications in the fields of psychiatry, neuroscience, and immunology. Before she came to the VA Portland Health Care System, this type of translational research in the field of psychoneuroimmunology was not being conducted.
In addition to her research program, Dr. Loftis has a long-standing interest in mentorship, teaching, and the development of new scientists. She has served as a mentor for the National Science Foundation’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program and is currently a mentor in the VA Mentorship program, OHSU’s Partnership for Scientific Inquiry, and Saturday Academy’s Apprenticeships in Science & Engineering program. Her goal as a scientist is to maintain a productive research program in the field of psychoneuroimmunology, one that allows for the pursuit of research, teaching, and community service and one that contributes to our understanding of the pathological mechanisms associated with neuropsychiatric impairments and inflammation in order to improve mental health and quality of life for Veterans and others.