Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Division of Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience Yerkes National Research Primate Center
The overall goals of my research program are to understand (1) the neurobiological systems that control stress responses and emotion regulation, and (2) how early life stress (in particular, the disruption of the mother-infant relationship) affects the development of those brain systems, leading to psychopathology and pathophysiology characteristic of anxiety and mood disorders. In addition, I am integrating studies of genetic and social factors that interact with early environment to affect vulnerability to early adversity. To achieve these goals, I have used rodent, and more recently, nonhuman primate animal models to capitalize on the experimental control and the level of molecular and cellular analysis that they provide.
My lab applies a multidisciplinary approach to these questions, including the analysis of: (1) neuroendocrine systems that mediate stress responses (e.g. hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function; corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF)); (2) social and emotional behavior -including fear and anxiety-; (3) cognitive analysis; (4) brain development using in vivo neuroimaging techniques (such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), resting state fMRI and positron emission tomography (PET)); and (5) molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying all those changes, including studies of gene/protein expression and receptor binding of neuropeptide and corticosteroid systems in brain regions involved in stress and emotional regulation (e.g., amygdala, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus).
This multidisciplinary approach bridges many different disciplines (stress neurobiology, neuroendocrinology, development, neuroimaging, genetics, primatology, behavior, psychobiology and psychopathology) and has a great translational value for human studies.