Robert Peoples.jpg



Department of Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Peoples received his Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1989 from Purdue University. He was a National Research Council Fellow, and later a Senior Staff Fellow, at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1998 he was appointed Chief of the Unit of Cellular Neuropharmacology at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health. He joined the faculty at Marquette University in August of 2003 and was promoted to full professor in 2012.

Dr. Peoples study the actions of alcohol on one of its major targets in the brain, a protein known as the NMDA receptor. 


Alcohol is thought to be the oldest drug used and abused by humans.  It is the most widely abused drug in the US, and has the greatest cost to society of any single drug.  Although it can be used responsibly, its misuse plays a substantial role in many societal problems, including domestic violence, crime, medical disorders, and motor vehicle accidents.  We know that the effects of alcohol on human behavior result from its actions on several specific brain proteins, including one of its major targets, the NMDA receptor.  The NMDA receptor is a type of protein known as an ion channel that participates in much of the communication among the nerve cells, or neurons, of the brain, and is important in learning and memory, judgment, and coordination of movement, all of which are affected by alcohol.  Despite many years of research, however, we still do not know exactly how alcohol is acting on the NMDA receptor.  Research from my laboratory has identified a number of specific amino acids in the NMDA receptor protein that are sites of alcohol action, as well as the way in which alcohol affects the function of the NMDA receptor through these sites.  We are continuing to find new sites on the NMDA receptor, and working to deepen our understanding of how alcohol acts on them.  Our hope is that this research will ultimately lead to better treatments for alcohol use disorders. 

Lab personnel: 

  • John McKee (undergraduate researcher) 

  • Claire Fellbaum (undergraduate researcher) 

  • Abbie Moravec (undergraduate researcher) 

Current Projects:   

  • Sites on the NMDA receptor that account for differences in alcohol sensitivity among NMDA subunits 

  • Development of alcohol-insensitive NMDA receptor subunits for use as molecular tools 

  • Role of the beta subunit in alcohol actions on the glycine receptor