Josh Burk

Joshua A. Burk

College of William & Mary
Department of Psychology
1035A Integrated Science Center
Williamsburg, VA 23187
757-221-3882 (office)
757-221-3896 (FAX)


Burk CV


Current Academic Positions:

2016-current    Chair, Department of Psychology, College of William and Mary

2008-current    Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, College of William and Mary

2016-current    Faculty Affiliate, Program in Neuroscience

2009-current    Faculty Affiliate, Department of Applied Science, College of William and Mary



Previous Academic Positions:

2011-2015        Director, Neuroscience Program, College of William & Mary

2002-2008        Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, College of William & Mary 


NOTE: I am able to accept doctoral students via the Ph.D. program in the Department of Applied Science. Please contact me ( and see the Department of Applied Science website for more information. I am also interested in working with M.A. students who apply to the Department of Psychology’s M.A. program.



May 1999, Ph.D.      Experimental Psychology, University of New Hampshire

May 1999, M.S.T.     College Teaching, University of New Hampshire

June 1996, M.A.       Experimental Psychology, University of New Hampshire

June 1993, B. S.      Psychology (Biological Emphasis), University of California, Davis


Previous Research Experience

2001-2002   Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Psychology, Ohio State University

1999-2001   Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology, Ohio State University

1994-1999   Research/Teaching Assistant, Department of Psychology, University of New Hampshire

Research Interests
My general area of research interest is the neural basis of attention, learning, and memory. We have several current lines of research related to these topics:


1. Role of the cholinergic system in attention: Considerable research has demonstrated that the basal forebrain cholinergic system is critical for normal attentional processing. Our recent work (McQuail & Burk, 2006) suggests that cholinergic muscarinic receptors, particularly the muscarinic M1 receptor, are important for mediating the effects of the cortical acetylcholine on attention (Burk & Robinson, 2010). Moreover, we have begun to elucidate the attentional demands that are necessary for demonstrating attentional deficits following loss of basal forebrain corticopetal cholinergic neurons (Burk, Lowder, Altemose, 2008). Our current work in this area involves assessing the role of acetylcholine when attentional demands are varied. I am collaborating with Dr. Greg Smith to develop computational models to predict drug-induced changes in performance in attention-demanding tasks. I am also collaborating with Dr. Paul Kieffaber to measure electrical brain activity during attention-demanding task performance.


2. Role of orexins in attention: In collaboration with Dr. Jim Fadel at the University of South Carolina Medical School, we are testing the role of the orexin system in attention. The orexinergic system originates within the hypothalamus and projects to multiple brain regions, including onto basal forebrain corticopetal cholinergic neurons. Our work has explored the role of the orexin projection to the basal forebrain in attentional processing (Fadel & Burk, 2010). We reported that blockade of orexin-1 receptors with SB-334867, either systemically or via direct infusions into the basal forebrain, disrupts attentional performance (Boschen, Fadel, Burk, 2009).


3. Role of the cholinergic system in decision-making. There is evidence that disruptions of attention can result in more impulsive decisions, such as those decisions measured by delay discounting paradigms. These delay discounting paradigms typically involve choosing an immediate, smaller reward compared with a delayed, larger reward. We are in the process of developing a novel task for assessing delay discounting in rats and plan to explore the role of the cholinergic system in delay discounting. Our long-term goals are to more fully explore whether the cholinergic system interacts with other neurotransmitter systems (e.g., dopamine) typically thought to mediate behavior in delay discounting paradigms.


Recent Publications

· Zajo KN, Fadel JR, Burk JA (2016) Orexin A induced enhancement of attentional processing in rats: role of basal forebrain neurons. Psychopharmacology, 233, 639-647.


· Kozikowski CT, Burk JA (2016) Promoting cognitive flexibility under attention-demanding conditions in aged rats. Current Aging Science, 9, 144-149.



Editorial Activities

          Review Editor for Neuropharmacology; Frontiers in Neuroscience, Pharmacology, Neurology and Psychiatry

Editorial Board Member, European Journal of Pharmacology

Associate Editor, BMC Neuroscience

          Editorial Board Member, World Journal of Pharmacology

          Editorial Board Member, Dataset Papers in Pharmacology



Spring 2016 Psychopharmacology