Georgia State University
Office: 813 Petit Science Center
How the brain changes during puberty
As anyone who’s been through puberty knows, it is a time of major physiological changes, most of which have to do with the effect of sex steroid hormones on the brain and body. We are interested in characterizing what those changes are, how they occur, and what specific effects they have on behavior. Using neuroanatomical, pharmacological, and electrophysiological methods, we’re presently investigating how puberty affects a pathway within the medial nucleus of the amygdala that is known to be involved in opposite sex attraction.
Computational properties of steroid sensitive cultured networks
The second line of research in our lab is concerned with understanding the functional relevance of sex differences. We have been characterizing anatomical sex differences in the brain for more than 30 years, yet we have very little clue as to what sex differences actually do. To address this, we have developed an approach whereby sex-specific cultured neural networks are grown on multi-electrode arrays, which contain 60 channels for simultaneous recording and stimulation. Some cultured networks are treated with sex steroid hormones, others are left alone. We record spontaneous and evoked activity, and we use a variety of signal processing and statistical techniques to detect recurring patterns of activity, also known as Hebbian cell assemblies. We are testing the hypothesis that the number and diversity of the recurring patterns will be sex-specific.
Sex specific responses to adverse early experience
Men and women are differentially susceptible to mental illnesses. For example, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder, such as anxiety or depression, than men. Although the susceptibility to mood disorders is to some extent heritable, stressful experiences during early life play a major role in affecting the likelihood that one will develop a mood disorder. Are females more severely affected by early life stress? Our work with juvenile social subjugation suggests that they are. We are currently investigating neurobiological mechanisms by which the same stressor can differentially influence the development of mood disorder-like behaviors differently in males and females.