Joseph Porter, Ph.D., in front of greenery

Joseph Porter, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor

Affiliate Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Affiliate Professor of Biology

(804) 828-0096

Health Psychology




  • Ph.D.: University of Georgia, 1974

Research Interests

Dr. Joseph Porter's research interests are focused in the field of behavioral pharmacology. Porter utilizes a number of different animal models to study the effects of drugs on behavior and also to determine the mechanisms of action of drugs. One of Porter's primary research interests has been the behavioral pharmacology of antipsychotic drugs used to treat schizophrenia. Typical antipsychotics, such as haloperidol, are effective in relieving the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, but have a very high incidence of producing extrapyramidal motor side effects in most patients. In recent years, the development of the atypical antipsychotic clozapine has lead to a renewed search for new antipsychotics that not only relieve the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, but also have a very low incidence of motor side effects in patients. In Porter's laboratory, one of the most important animal models that is used is drug discrimination. In this procedure animals are trained to discriminate between the subjective effects of a drug injection and a placebo injection in either a two or three lever operant procedure. This procedure allows us to "ask" the rat if other drugs are more like the training drug or the placebo, and also allows us to explore the underlying neural mechanisms for the behavioral effects of these drugs. Other animals models used in Porter's lab include a variety of operant procedures, Morris water maze and 8-arm radial maze studies, schedule-induced polydipsia, motor activity studies, and the paw test (a modified test of catalepsy). In addition to the study of atypical antipsychotics, other research interests include research on antidepressants, anxiolytics, and drugs of abuse (e.g., methadone).

Select Publications

  • Wiebelhaus, J. M., Vunck, S. A., Meltzer, H. Y., & Porter J. H. (in press). Discriminative stimulus properties of N-desmethylclozapine, the major active metabolite of the atypical antipsychotic clozapine in C57BL/6 mice. Behavioural Pharmacology.
  • Porter, J. H. (2011). Discriminative stimulus properties of receptor antagonists. In R. A. Glennon & R. Young (Eds.), Drug discrimination: Applications to medicinal chemistry and drug studies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Wiebelhaus, J. M., Webster, K. A., Meltzer, H. Y., & Porter, J. H. (2011). The metabolites N-desmethylclozapine and N-desmethylolanzapine produce cross-tolerance to the discriminative stimulus of the atypical antipsychotic clozapine in C57BL/6 mice. Behavioural Pharmacology, 22, 458–467.
  • Vunck, S. A., Wiebelhaus, J. M., Arnt, J., & Porter, J. H. (2011). Clozapine and N-Methyl-D-Aspartate have positive modulatory actions on their respective discriminative stimulus properties in C57BL/6 mice. European Journal of Pharmacology, 650, 579–585.
  • Vann, R. E., Wise, L. E., Varvel, S. A., Philibin, S. D., Walentiny, D. M., & Porter J.H. (2009). Route of administration influences substitution patterns in rats trained to discriminate methadone vs. vehicle. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 103, 124-130.


  • Physiological Psychology, undergraduate level
  • Biological Basis of Behavior, graduate level
  • Applications of Statistics, undergraduate level
  • Research Methods in Biopsychology, graduate level