Our research program focuses on the developmental origins of disease. Stressors, including altered diet, psychosocial stress, immune challenge, during gestation can have adverse consequences on the intrauterine environment and increase disease susceptibility of the developing fetus. The long-term effects on offspring include greater susceptibility to psychiatric disease, such as depression and anxiety disorders, and adverse metabolic conditions including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Studies in the laboratory use rodent models and incorporate a multilevel approach to determine the behavioral, physiological, and neural correlates of disease development. Genetic and epigenetic approaches are used to further elucidate molecular mechanisms that may increase susceptibility to psychiatric disease and will facilitate development of diagnostic biomarkers and novel clinical interventions for such conditions.
Another area of interest in the lab is in eating disorders. We use a rat animal model of anorexia (“activity-based anorexia”) to identify the factors that serve to perpetuate and sustain anorexia nervosa-like behavior and increase the likelihood of relapse.
Lab Website: Behavioral Neuroscience Laboratory