Health Sciences Campus

Dr. Ken Soderstrom


Associate Professor

voice: 252-744-2742

My research has become focused on understanding mechanisms responsible for persistent behavioral effects of CNS-active drugs during late-postnatal development.

It is becoming clear that such exposure can cause persistent changes in responsiveness to abused drugs that last through adulthood. These behavioral changes are associated with either increased rewarding or decreased aversive properties of abused drugs, and greater likelihood of consumption in adulthood. Because the types of developmental changes that occur in the brain during late-postnatal periods largely depend upon neuronal activity (e.g. are “activity-dependent”), it makes sense that drug-altered CNS activity has the potential to change the course of brain development and ultimately, behavior.

Although a clear picture of the ability of early drug exposure to persistently alter behavior is emerging (and we have studied this using rodent models of drug reinforcement), the physiological changes that must be responsible for this altered behavior remain largely uninvestigated. To begin to address the physiological basis for persistent effects of early drug exposure, we have developed a songbird model of developmental psychopharmacology. Songbirds are interesting because they learn a form of vocal communication during distinct periods of late-postnatal development. Thus, they have unique utility for studying effects of abused drugs on acquisition of a naturally learned behavior. Using this model we have discovered that multiple abused drugs alter vocal learning. Interestingly, drugs of different classes alter vocal learning in different ways. These distinct effects of different abused drugs provide us with tools to probe the physiological changes responsible for different features of altered vocal learning. Thus, this research has potential broad impact, and will inform not only developmental effects of abused drugs, but will also provide insight to physiological changes that are critical for vocal development.

Representative Publications

Gilbert MT, Soderstrom K, Developmental but not adult cannabinoid treatments persistently alter axonal and dendritic morphology within brain regions important for zebra finch vocal learning, 2014, Brain Research, 1558:57-73.

Soderstrom K, Wilson AR, Developmental pattern of diacylglycerol lipase-α (DAGLα) immunoreactivity in brain regions important for song learning and control in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), 2013, Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy, 53:41-59.

Gilbert MT, Soderstrom K, Novel song-stimulated dendritic spine formation and Arc/Arg3.1 expression in zebra finch auditory telencephalon are disrupted by cannabinoid agonism, 2013, Brain Research, 1541:9-21

Soderstrom K, Gilbert MT, Cannabinoid mitigation of neuronal morphological change important to development and learning: insight from a zebra finch model of psychopharmacology, 2013, Life Sciences, 92(8-9) 467-475.

Soderstrom K, Zhang Y, Wilson AR, Altered patterns of filopodia production in CHO cells heterologously expressing zebra finch CB1 cannabinoid receptors, 2012, Cell Adh Migr. 6(2):91-99.

Gilbert MT, Soderstrom K, Late-postnatal cannabinoid exposure persistently elevates dendritic spine densities in Area X and HVC song regions of zebra finch telencephalon, Brain Research 2011, 1405:23-30.

Soderstrom K, Poklis JL, Lichtman AH, Cannabinoid exposure during zebra finch sensorimotor vocal learning persistently alters expression of endocannabinoid signaling elements and acute agonist responsiveness, BMC Neurosci. 2011 Jan 6;12:3.

Soderstrom, K. and B. Luo. Late-Postnatal Cannabinoid Exposure Persistently Increases FoxP2 Expression within Zebra Finch Striatum, Dev Neurobiol, 2010, 70(3):195-203.

Soderstrom, K. and Q. Tian. CB1 cannabinoid receptor activation dose-dependently modulates neuronal activity within caudal but not rostral song control regions of adult zebra finch telencephalon, Psychopharmacology (Berl.), 2008, 199: 265-273.

Soderstrom, K., Qin, W., Williams, H., Taylor D.A., McMillen B.A., Nicotine increases FosB expression within a subset of reward- and memory-related brain regions during both peri- and postadolescence, Psychopharmacology (Berl.), 2007, 191(4): 891-897

Soderstrom, K. and Tian, Q. Developmental pattern of CB1 cannabinoid receptor immunoreactivity in brain regions important to zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) song learning and control. J Comp Neurol. 2006, 496(5):739-758.

McMillen, B.A., B.J. Davis, H.L. Williams, K. Soderstrom. Periadolescent nicotine exposure causes heterologous sensitization to cocaine reinforcement. European Journal of Pharmacology, 2005, 509(2-3):161-164.

Soderstrom, K, Q. Tian, M. Valenti & V. Di Marzo. Endocannabinoids link feeding state and auditory perception-related gene expression. J. Neurosci., 2004, 24: 10010-10021.

Soderstrom, K and Q. Tian. Distinct periods of cannabinoid sensitivity during Zebra Finch vocal development. Dev. Brain Res., 2004, 153: 225-232.

Whitney O, Soderstrom K, Johnson F., CB1 cannabinoid receptor activation inhibits a neural correlate of song recognition in an auditory/perceptual region of the zebra finch telencephalon. J Neurobiol. 2003; 56: 266-74.

Soderstrom, K, Johnson F., Cannabinoid exposure alters learning of zebra finch vocal patterns, Dev. Brain Res. 2003; 142: 215-217.

Soderstrom K, Johnson F., Zebra finch CB1 cannabinoid receptor: pharmacology and in vivo and in vitro effects of activation, J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2001, 297: 189-97.

Soderstrom K, Johnson F., CB1 cannabinoid receptor expression in brain regions associated with zebra finch song control, Brain Res. 2000, 857:151-7.

Soderstrom K, Leid M, Moore FL, Murray TF., Behavioral, pharmacological, and molecular characterization of an amphibian cannabinoid receptor, J Neurochem. 2000, 75: 413-23.

Laboratory Members

Weixi Qin, Research Specialist

Tessa Holland, Graduate Student


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