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NameEmailPhd ProgramResearch InterestsPublications
Belger, Aysenil email , , , publications

Dr. Belger’s research focuses on studies of the cortical circuits underlying attention and executive function in the human brain, as well as the breakdown in these functions in neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopment disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.  Her research also examines changes in cortical circuits and their physiological properties in individuals at high risk for psychotic disorders.  Dr. Belger combines functional magnetic resonance imaging, electrophysiological scalp recording, experimental psychology and neuropsychological assessment techniques to explore the behavioral and neurophysiological dimensions of higher order executive functions.  Her most recent research projects have begun focusing on electrophysiological abnormalities in young autistic children and individuals at high risk for schizophrenia.

Besheer, Joyce email , , publications

Research in my lab examines the neurobiological mechanisms underlying alcoholism and addiction. At present studies are focused on the interaction between stress-related systems and sensitivity to alcohol, in order to better understand the mechanisms that underlie increased alcohol drinking during stressful episodes. We use an array of behavioral (e.g., operant self-administration, drug discrimination) and behavioral pharmacology techniques, including targeted brain regional drug injections, to functionally evaluate the role of specific molecular targets. In parallel to the behavioral studies, we use immunohistochemistry and Western blot techniques to examine alterations in the expression of various molecular targets following stress exposure. We are also applying these techniques to examine and integrate the study of depression that emerges following stress hormone exposure.

Boettiger, Charlotte email , , , , publications

My lab uses a cognitive neuroscience approach to understand the neurobiology of drug addiction in humans. The tools we use include fMRI, cognitive testing, physiological monitoring, pharmacology, and genetic testing. We specifically seek to determine 1) how the brain learns new stimulus-response associations and replaces learned associations, 2) the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the tendency to select immediate over delayed rewards, and 3) the neural bases of addiction-related attentional bias.

Breese, George email , , , , , publications

This multidisciplinary laboratory has 6 interests: 1) Defining regionally specific adaptations responsible for functions altered by chronic ethanol;  2) Characterizing regional CNS biochemical changes induced by stress and CRF after chronic ethanol;  3) Defining the role of central cytokines in behaviors induced by stress; 4) Exploring how a benzodiazepine (BZD) agonist shares actions with a BZD antagonist;  5) Defining TRH receptor subtype(s) responsible for its anti-anxiety and analeptic actions;  and  6) Defining the action of galanin on ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety.  To undertake our interests, behavioral, anatomical, pharmacological, electrophysiological, biochemical, and molecular biological approaches are used.

Burmeister, Sabrina S. email , , , , publications

Sensory neurobiology of animal communication, sensory-endocrine interactions and evolution of the brain.

Carelli, Regina M. email , , , , publications

Research in the Carelli laboratory is in the area of behavioral neuroscience.  Our studies focus on the neurobiological basis of motivated behaviors, including drug addiction. Electrophysiology and electrochemistry procedures are used during behavior to examine the role of the brain ‘reward’ circuit in natural (e.g., food) versus drug (e.g., cocaine) reward.   Studies incorporate classical and operant conditioning procedures to study the role of the nucleus accumbens (and dopamine) and associated brain regions in learning and memory, as they relate to motivated behaviors.

Cohen, Jessica email , , , , publications

The Cohen Lab investigates how functional brain networks in humans interact and reconfigure when confronted with changing cognitive demands, when experiencing transformations across development, and when facing disruptions in healthy functioning due to disease. We are also interested in how this neural flexibility contributes to flexibility in control and the ability to learn, as well as the consequences of dysfunction in this flexibility. We use behavioral, neuroimaging, and clinical approaches taken from neuroscience, psychology, and mathematics to address our research questions.

Gilmore, John email , , , , publications

Dr. Gilmore’s research group is applying state-of–the-art magnetic resonance imaging and image analysis techniques to study human brain development in 0-6 year olds.  Approaches include structural, diffusion tensor, and resting state functional imaging, with a focus on cortical gray and white matter development and its relationship to cognitive development.  Studies include normally developing children, twins, and children at high risk for schizophrenia and bipolar illness.  We also study the contributions of genetic and environmental risk factors to early brain development in humans.  A developing collaborative project with Flavio Frohlich, PhD will use imaging to study white and gray matter development in ferrets and its relationship with cortical oscillatory network development.

Girdler, Susan email , , , publications

I have been an NIH-funded women’s health researcher for over 20 years.   The focus of my current research is in reproductive mood disorders, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder and postpartum depression.  Current research in my lab is investigating the role of psychosocial stress (e.g., histories of trauma) and alterations in cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and GABAergic neurosteroid reactivity to stress in reproductive mood disorders.   I also have a long-standing research record in studies investigating ethnic and racial differences in physiologic stress reactivity and endogenous pain regulation.    /  / I co-direct an NIH-funded postdoctoral training program as well as the UNC Department of Psychiatry Junior Faculty Mentoring Program.  I am dedicated to training the next generation of independent investigators.

Gordon-Larsen, Penny email , , , , publications

Gordon-Larsen’s work integrates biology, behavior, and environment to understand, prevent and treat obesity, cardiovascular and cardiometabolic diseases. She works with biomarker, microbiome, metabolome, genetic, weight, diet, and environment data using multilevel modeling and pathway-based analyses. She works with several longitudinal cohorts that span more than 30 years. Most of her work uses data from the US and China. Her research teams include a wide variety of scientists working in areas such as genetics, medicine, bioinformatics, biostatistics, microbiology, nutrition, and epidemiology.

Hige, Toshi email , , , , , publications

[MOVING TO UNC-CH IN JANUARY 2018] Flexibility of the brain allows the same sensory cue to have very different meaning to the animal depending on past experience (i.e. learning and memory) or current context. Our goal is to understand this process at the levels of synaptic plasticity, neural circuit and behavior. Our model system is a simple brain of the fruit fly, Drosophila. We employ in vivo electrophysiology and two-photon calcium imaging together with genetic circuit manipulation. Taking advantage of this unique combination, we aim to find important circuit principles that are shared with vertebrate systems.


Hopfinger, Joseph email , publications

Research in my laboratory investigates human cognition. We use behavioral measures and scalp-recorded event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to gain a better understanding of the rapid neural dynamics underlying cognitive processes, such as the interactions between attentional capture, sustained attention, and distraction.  We also use fMRI to investigate the neural architecture supporting voluntary attention, as well as social cognitive processes.  A new direction of our research is using these methods to investigate changes in neural connectivity that may be associated with cognitive “brain training.” Finally, in collaborative projects, we also investigate social cognitive processing in psychiatric populations, language comprehension in healthy individuals, and dysfunctional attentional control in adults at risk for alcoholism.

Johns, Josephine email , , , , publications

Effects of drugs of abuse on maternal behavior and aggression and the effects of prenatal exposure to drugs on offspring development and behavior.  Approaches range from molecular to behavioral as our work is basic science with a clinically applicable focus.

Kash, Thomas email , , , , , , publications

Emotional behavior is regulated by a host of chemicals, including neurotransmitters and neuromodulators, acting on specific circuits within the brain. There is strong evidence for the existence of both endogenous stress and anti-stress systems. Chronic exposure to drugs of abuse and stress are hypothesized to modulate the relative balance of activity of these systems within key circuitry in the brain leading to dysregulated emotional behavior. One of the primary focuses of the Kash lab is to understand how chronic drugs of abuse and stress alter neuronal function, focusing on these stress and anti-stress systems in brain circuitry important for anxiety-like behavior. In particular, we are interested in defining alterations in synaptic function, modulation and plasticity using a combination of whole-cell patch-clamp physiology, biochemistry and mouse models.  Current projects are focused on the role of a unique population of dopamine neurons in alcoholism and anxiety.

Kato, Hiroyuki email , , publications

Our primary goal is to identify how our brain processes sound inputs to detect complex patterns, such as our language. Using mouse auditory cortex as a model system, we combine multiple cutting-edge techniques (e.g. in vivo whole-cell recording, two-photon calcium imaging, and optogenetics) in behaving animals to dissect the circuits that connect vocal inputs to behavioral outputs. Findings in the simple mouse cortex should provide a first step towards the ultimate understanding of the complex human brain circuits that enable verbal communication, and how they fail in psychiatric disorders.

Knickmeyer Santelli, Rebecca email , , , , publications

Dr. Knickmeyer Santelli’s lab seeks to advance our understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders through the integration of pediatric neuroimaging with genetic, endocrine, and behavioral methodologies. In particular, her research explores the role which common and rare genetic variation plays in explaining individual differences in neurodevelopment during infancy and early childhood and investigates the mechanisms which modulate differential vulnerability to and expression of neurodevelopment disorders in each sex. She is also using MRI to evaluate the effects of prenatal exposure to antidepressants and to understand how microbial colonization of the gut impacts human brain development and anxiety.

Philpot, Ben email , , , , publications

My lab is driven to understand the neuronal pathologies underlying neurodevelopmental disorders, and to use this information to identify novel therapeutics.  We focus our research on monogenic autism spectrum disorders, including Angelman, Rett, and Pitt-Hopkins syndromes.  We employ a diverse number of techniques including: electrophysiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, mouse engineering, and in vivo imaging.

Reissner, Kathryn email , , , , publications

Research in our lab is focused on understanding how cocaine abuse affects glial cell physiology, in particular neuron-astrocyte communication.  We utilize the rat cocaine self-administration/reinstatement model, which allows us to test hypotheses regarding not only how chronic cocaine use affects properties of astrocytes and the tripartite synapse, but also how compounds affecting glial cells may influence synaptic processing within the brain’s reward neurocircuitry and behavioral measures of drug seeking.

Robinson, Donita email , , , , publications

The Robinson lab currently explores the neurodynamics of reinforcement pathways in the brain by using state-of-the-art, in vivo recording techniques in freely moving rats. Our goal is to understand the interplay of mesostriatal, mesocortical and corticostriatal circuits that underlie action selection, both in the context of normal development and function, and in the context of psychiatric disorders that involve maladaptive behavior, such as alcohol use disorder, adolescent vulnerability to drug use and addiction, cocaine-induced maternal neglect and binge-eating disorders.

Sockman, Keith W email , , , , , publications

I study the ultimate and proximate factors controlling flexibility in reproductive behavior. Using songbirds as a system, I use field and laboratory studies to investigate the ecological cues regulating reproductive flexibility, the neural integration of these cues, and the neural mechanisms precipitating adaptive behavioral outcomes. Of particular interest is the study of courtship and mate-choice behavior and how the songbird brain integrates ecological and social information. I am also interested in how the timing of reproduction, reproductive effort, and family planning are controlled. I use high performance liquid chromatography for the measurement of central catecholamines and immunocytochemistry and microscopy for quantifying neuropeptides and the expression of immediate early genes as markers of neural activity.

Song, Juan email , , , , publications

Our primary research interest is to identify the mechanisms that regulate neural circuit organization and function at distinct stages of adult neurogenesis, and to understand how circuit-level information-processing properties are remodeled by the integration of new neurons into existing circuits and how disregulation of this process may contribute to various neurological and mental disorders. Our long-range goals are to translate general principles governing neural network function into directions relevant for understanding neurological and psychiatric diseases. We are addressing these questions using a combination of cutting-edge technologies and approaches, including optogenetics, high-resolution microscopy, in vitro and in vivo electrophysiology, genetic lineage tracing and molecular biology.

Stuber, Garret email , , , publications

My lab focuses on delineating the neural circuits that mediate motivated behavioral states that are disrupted in diseases such as addiction, schizophrenia, depression, eating disorder and autism spectrum disorders.  Using animal models we employ a range to cutting edge tools and techniques to study neural circuit function.  Advances in the newly emerging fields such as optogenetics and in vivo imaging have now given us unprecedented abilities to control and monitor the activity of genetically defined neural circuit elements in the behaving animal.  Our research will ultimately uncover how genetically defined cell types in the brain orchestrate and control complex motivated behavioral states.

Tarantino, Lisa M. email , , , , , , , , publications

The Tarantino lab studies addiction and anxiety-related behaviors in mouse models using forward genetic approaches. We are currently studying a chemically-induced mutation in a splice donor site that results in increased novelty- and cocaine-induced locomotor activity and prolonged stress response. We are using RNA-seq to identify splice variants in the brain that differ between mutant and wildtype animals. We are also using measures of initial sensitivity to cocaine in dozens of inbred mouse strains to understand the genetics, biology and pharmacokinetics of acute cocaine response and how initial sensitivity might be related to addiction. Finally, we have just started a project aimed at studying the effects of perinatal exposure to dietary deficiencies on anxiety, depression and stress behaviors in adult offspring. This study utilizes RNA-seq and a unique breeding design to identify parent of origin effects on behavior and gene expression in response to perinatal diet.