Neurobiology of Disease
Brain & Behavior
B.A. 2005, University of California, Los Angeles; Ph.D. 2011, University of California, Los Angeles; Postdoctoral Fellow 2012-2019, California Institute of Technology
Neural circuits underlying psychogenic stress
Under normal circumstances, stress and fear enable us to flexibly adapt to conditions in our environment, greatly contributing to our success and survival. However, in cases of prolonged or extreme psychogenic stress, this normally advantageous system can exert detrimental effects on the brain and behavior, giving rise to disturbances in mental health such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, phobias, and social isolation. These disturbances can be extremely debilitating, targeting people regardless of age, sex, or ethnicity, and leading to increases in fear and violence in our society.
My lab is interested in understanding the brain circuits and neural mechanisms underlying various forms of stress. We apply cutting-edge, genetically-targeted molecular tools and techniques to identify, manipulate, and image from specific populations of neurons across a number of brain regions. We combine these techniques with in depth behavioral testing and computational analyses to dissect neural circuits and elucidate the role and function of particular cell populations within them.
Taking this molecular-behavioral approach, we ask questions such as how does the brain encode a single traumatic event? What does the brain look like after an extended period of social isolation? Can we target particular brain regions, cell populations, or signaling molecules to reverse the damaging effects of stress on behavior? In striving to answer these questions, we aim to better understand the brain and behavior, as well as potentially identify novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of mental health disorders.