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Research Interest Summary
One of the most remarkable things that develops during human childhood and teenage years is the perception, expression, and regulation of emotions. This is also a time when emotional disorders like anxiety and depression often emerge. Many brain regions work together to orchestrate emotional memories and responses, and these structures grow significantly in children. Determining the cellular basis for this development and processes that go awry in neuropsychiatric illness is the primary focus of our laboratory.
Neurons and other cells continue to develop throughout our whole lives, and some brain regions and types of neurons take much longer to develop than others. In the human brain there are multiple populations of late-developing neurons that grow and mature significantly during adolescence. The developmental factors that lead to a different timescale for the growth of these cells are not known, and a longer period of development may make these neurons particularly susceptible to environmental influences like stress or enrichment.
Our lab has two primary research aims: 1) to study human neurodevelopment in the temporal lobe, which includes structures like the amygdala (governing fear, anxiety, and social behaviors), the hippocampus (memory storage) and the entorhinal cortex (spatial memory). 2) to learn about developmental processes that direct neuron structural plasticity and growth in similar regions of the adolescent mouse brain.