Helen Kamens

Ph.D. Graduate (2007)

Helen KamensUndergraduate Education

(2002) BS Biobehavioral Health, The Pennsylvania State University 

Training at OHSU 


Second Year Project 

(2004) Characterization of a procedure to test motor incoordination in mice (Mentor: Tamara J. Phillips, Ph.D.


(2007) Multidisciplinary approaches examining the genetic basis of drug-induced locomotor stimulation (Mentor: Tamara J. Phillips, Ph.D.

Previous Positions

  • Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine 
  • Research Associate, Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado 
  • Assistant Research Professor, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado 

Current Position 

Assistant Professor, Department of Biobehavioral Health, The Pennsylvania State University 



Background & Interests 

As an undergraduate student at Penn State I was very fortunate to have found the biobehavioral health program that integrates both biology and psychology.  I was lucky that there were a number of faculty members and classes in the department that were directed towards behavioral genetics, allowing me to explore my interest in genes and how they can affect a vast array of traits from disease states to complex behaviors.  I applied to a number of graduate schools that had on-going research in behavioral genetics, but it seemed like everyone I talked to gave me the same advice; "Go to OHSU!"      

I find it very interesting that genes can affect behaviors and my hope is to be able to identify these genes.  Because of the strong focus that OHSU has on drug abuse I decided to examine the genetics underlying this complex behavior.   

My OHSU Experience 

My time in the Behavioral Neuroscience department was a great experience. The department has a great atmosphere for individuals who are interested in addiction or behavioral genetics because there is such a concentration of research in these fields.  This provides a great training environment where there is always someone to talk to about any scientific problems you might encounter. The faculty are very supportive of the students and I always felt like they wanted me to succeed. Furthermore, Portland is a great city to live in for graduate school. The cost of living is reasonable even on a graduate student's stipend. I miss the great food that Portland has to offer at reasonable prices and the many wonderful outdoor activities around the city. 


Kamens, H.M., Corley, R.P., McQueen, M.B., Stallings, M.C., Hopfer, C.J., Crowley, T.J., Brown, S.A., Hewitt, J.K., & Ehringer, M.A. (2012) Nominal association with CHRNA4 variants and nicotine dependence.  Genes Brain Behav, 12(3), 297-304    

Kamens, H.M., Hoft, N.R., Cox, R.J., Miyamoto, J.H., & Ehringer, M.A. (2012) The α6 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit influences ethanol-induced sedation.  Alcohol, 46(5), 463-471. PMC3403529 [Available 2013/8/1]

Howrigan, D.P., Simonson, M.A., Kamens, H.M., Stephens, S.H., Wills, A.G., Ehringer, M.A., Keller, M.C., & McQueen, M.B. (2011) Mutational load analysis of unrelated individuals.BMC proceedings, 5(Supp 9), S55. PMC3287893

Kamens, H.M., Andersen, J., & Picciotto, M.R. (2010) The nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist varenicline increases the ataxic and sedative-hypnotic effects of ethanol in C57BL/6J mice.  Alcohol Clin Exp Res, 34(12), 2053-2060. PMC2988947

Kamens, H.M., Andersen, J., & Picciotto, M.R. (2010) Modulation of ethanol consumption by genetic and pharmacological manipulation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in mice.  Psychopharmacology (Berl), 208(4), 613-626. PMC2901400

Picciotto, M.R., Brabant, C., Einstein, E., Kamens, H.M., & Neugebauer, N.  (2010)  Potential mechanisms underlying the effects of galanin on addiction- and stress-related behaviors.  Brain Res, 1314, 206-218. PMC2819596

Kamens, H.M., McKinnon, C.S., Li, N., Helms, M.L., Belknap, J.K., & Phillips, T.J.  (2009) The gene coding for the α3 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor is a candidate gene for ethanol stimulation. Genes Brain Behav, 8(6), 600-609. PMC2888607

Narasimhaiah, R, Kamens, H.M., & Picciotto, M.R. (2009) Effects of galanin on cocaine-mediated conditioned place preference and ERK signaling in mice.  Psychopharmacology (Berl), 204(1), 95-102. PMC2872184

Phillips, T.J., Kamens, H.M., & Wheeler, J. (2008) Behavioral genetic contributions to the study of abuse-related amphetamine effects. Neurosci Biobehav Rev, 32(4), 707-59. PMC2360482

Kamens, H.M., & Phillips, T.J. (2008) A role for neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in ethanol-induced stimulation, but not cocaine- or methamphetamine-induced stimulation.  Psychopharmacology (Berl), 196(3), 377-87   

Kliethermes, C.L., Kamens, H.M., & Crabbe, J.C. (2007) Drug reward and intake in lines of mice selectively bred for divergent exploration of a hole-board apparatus. Genes Brain Behav, 6(7), 608-618 

Kamens, H.M., & Crabbe, J.C. (2007) The parallel rod floor test: a measure of ataxia in mice. Nature Protocols, 2(2), 277-281 

Kamens, H.M., Burkhart-Kasch, S., McKinnon, C.S., Li, N., Reed, C., & Phillips, T.J. (2006) Ethanol-related traits in mice selectively bred for differential sensitivity to methamphetamine-induced activation. Behav Neurosci, 120(6), 1356-66   

Palmer, A.A., Verbitsky, M, Suresh, R, Kamens, H.M., Reed, C.L., Li, N., Burkhart-Kasch, S., McKinnon, C.S., Belknap, J.K., Gillman, T.C., & Phillips, T.J. (2005) Gene expression differences in mice divergently selected for methamphetamine sensitivity. Mamm Genome, 16, 291-305 

Kamens, H.M., Phillips, T.J., Holstein, S.E., & Crabbe, J.C. (2005) Characterization of the parallel rod floor apparatus to test motor incoordination in mice. Genes Brain Behav, 4(4), 253-66     

Kamens, H.M., Burkhart-Kasch, S., McKinnon, C.S., Li, N., Reed, C. & Phillips, T.J. (2005) Sensitivity to psychostimulants in mice bred for high and low stimulation to methamphetamine. Genes Brain Behav, 4(2), 110-25  

Klein, L.C., Stine, M.M., Vandenbergh, D.J., Whetzel, C.A., & Kamens, H.M. (2004) Sex differences in voluntary oral nicotine consumption by adolescent mice: a dose-response experiment. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 78(1), 13-25

Page Last Updated May 31, 2013