- Research Area: Developmental Psychobiology/Behavioral Neuroscience
- Rodent Models of Neurodevelopmental Disorders
- Rodent Models of Neurodegenerative Diseases
- Learning and Memory
- Quantitative Neuroanatomy
- Dept/College/University Service and Affiliations:
II. Research Interests
My research involves studying rodent models of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders using behavioral tests that assess cognitive function, and neuroanatomical techniques that measure brain changes. Altogether, I incorporate methodological approaches that may provide better understanding of brain-behavior relationships (i.e., behavioral neuroscience).
The main neurodevelopmental disorder I have focused on is fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which includes fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and other maternal alcohol-related deficits. Rodents are used to help explain the phenomenology, teratology, and neuropathology seen in human cases of FASDs. Currently, I am examining whether early alcohol exposure in rodents leads to learning deficits as measured by eyeblink classical conditioning, the most well-studied form of associative learning in mammalian neuroscience. I also use the Morris water maze task to assess spatial and non-spatial learning/memory. To determine whether the early alcohol insult also results in brain dysfunction that correlates with the behavioral deficits, I use a variety of histological, histochemical, and morphometric techniques. It is hoped that answers about alcohol's impact on brain-behavior relationships can be better understood in animals, and in turn guide research that examines chemical or behavioral therapies that minimize or prevent such a deplorable condition in humans.
In terms of neurodegenerative disorders, I am examining behavioral and cognitive deficits in triple-transgenic (3xTg-AD) mice that bear the PS1-M146V, APP-Swe, and tauP301L mutations - mutations that lead to hallmark pathologies in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Similar to my work on FASDs, I use eyeblink classical conditioning and Morris maze testing to assess cognitive function in these mice. In collaboration with investigators at Brody School of Medicine, we hope to test the feasibility of experimental therapeutic agents that have gained much interest as of late in minimizing the impact of AD.
III. Education and Post-Graduate Training
- B.S.: Regis University, Denver, CO
- M.A.: University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, Experimental Psychology - Behavioral Neuroscience
- Ph.D.: University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, Experimental Psychology - Behavioral Neuroscience
- Dissertation Mentor: Dr. Sandra J. Kelly, U. South Carolina
- Postdoctoral Work: Post-Doc and Research Associate, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis [1999-2005]
- Supervisor: Dr. Charles R. Goodlett - Developmental Psychobiology
IV. Professional Memberships
- Society for Neuroscience
- Research Society on Alcoholism
- International Society for Developmental Psychobiology
- Rocky Mountain Psychological Association