Clinton Canal

Academic, Scientist

Dr. Clinton Canal is a neuroscientist and professor at Mercer University whose research centers on serotonin receptor neuropharmacology.

Dr. Canal graduated from the University of Florida in 1998 with a BS in psychology and a minor in philosophy. In 2006, he earned his neuroscience Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He stayed at the university for a year to conduct postdoctoral research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Canal earned NIH grants for two subsequent postdoctoral fellowships, as well: From 2007 to 2009, he studied functional neurogenomics at Vanderbilt University, then spent the next three years studying medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida. Dr. Canal also possesses a certificate in Health Informatics from Northeastern University. 

Before joining Mercer University’s faculty in 2017 as a professor of pharmacology and neurobiology, Dr. Canal spent five years teaching and conducting research at Northeastern’s Center for Drug Discovery. He has since lent his expertise to several pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Canal began advising serotonergic drug developer Seropeutics in 2016 and was Chief Science Advisor of Adelia Therapeutics’ throughout 2020, developing psychedelic-based pharmaceuticals to treat central nervous system disorders. In December 2020, he became Chief Science Advisor at the psilocybin biotechnology company Cybin. 

In a 2020 NeuroChat interview with Craig Lindsley of ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Dr. Canal shared that he was inspired to study serotonin G protein-coupled receptors (GCPRs) after learning in undergraduate school about how LSD – which targets these receptors – affects cognition, consciousness, and mental health. His interest was reinforced through witnessing and personally experiencing mental health challenges. 

In 2017, Dr. Canal hypothesized that classic psychedelics’ role as the 5-HT2C receptor agonists is key to their non-addictive nature and to their potential to counteract the addictive effects of other drugs. In 2018, he authored a publication on experimental methods for studying the mechanisms of serotonergic psychedelics. And he was cited in a 2022 Psychedelic Science Review article about the enduring utility of the HTR (head -twitch response) assay, a research method that signifies activation of the 5-HT2A receptor. Dr. Canal has used HTR to investigate the effects of hallucinogenic drugs such as lorcaserin and DOI, which can give clues to their psychedelic effects in humans. His study of serotonergic drug activation pathways has helped to identify potential treatment for Fragile X syndrome, a common cause of intellectual disability. 

Dr. Canal’s scientific contributions go well beyond laboratory research. He has provided review and editing support for numerous academic journals, trained faculty in teaching skills, and mentored undergraduate and graduate students in diverse subjects. 

  1. Canal CE, Murnane KS. The serotonin 5-HT2C receptor and the non-addictive nature of classic hallucinogens. Journal of Psychopharmacology. London, England: SAGE Publications; 2017;31:127-143.
  2. Canal CE. Serotonergic psychedelics: Experimental approaches for assessing mechanisms of action. In: New Psychoactive Substances. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2018:227-260.
  3. Saraf TS, Felsing DE, Armstrong JL, Booth RG, Canal CE. Evaluation of lorcaserin as an anticonvulsant in juvenile Fmr1 knockout mice. Epilepsy Res. 2021;175:106677. doi:10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2021.106677
  4. Canal CE, Booth RG, Morgan D. Support for 5-HT2C receptor functional selectivity in vivo utilizing structurally diverse, selective 5-HT2C receptor ligands and the 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine elicited head-twitch response model. Neuropharmacology. 2013;70:112-121. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2013.01.007