AMP IT UP Online Seminar Series – RFA Awardees

AMP IT UP Online Seminar Series – RFA Awardees

AMP IT UP Online Seminar Series – RFA Awardees

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017, at 3pm ET

Join us for an upcoming seminar on Tuesday, July 25th at 3 pm ET.

In this seminar, the AMP IT UP RFA awardees will give presentations followed by a question and answer session.

Click here to join the seminar live on Tuesday, July 25th at 3 pm ET

This meeting is an online only meeting. The presentation will be delivered through your computer/device and not via telephone. If you have never attended an Adobe Connect meeting before, click here to test your connection.


“Validating Constructs Relevant to PTSD in a Model of Individual Differences in Response to Social Defeat in Rats”
Seema Bhatnagar, PhD

About Seema Bhatnagar, PhD

Seema Bhatnagar, PhDSeema Bhatnagar, PhD is the Director of the Stress Neurobiology Group based in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. She is a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She was previously on faculty at the University of Michigan. She received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from McGill University and then went on to the University of California San Francisco for a post-doctoral Fellowship. Her graduate and post-doctoral training focused on examining adaptations to repeated stress and in revealing the neural circuits that underlie these adaptations. She uses a systems neuroscience approach and has uncovered specific roles for the paraventricular thalamus, the basolateral amygdala and the hypothalamic neuropeptides orexins in adaptation to chronic stress. She has looked at factors occurring earlier in life (prenatal stress, postnatal maternal separation, adolescent social stress) as well as sex differences. A core interest is in identifying the factors that make some individuals vulnerable and other individuals resistant to the effects of chronic stress. Her lab has developed a rat model in which individual differences in coping behavior during chronic social defeat determine resilience or vulnerability to the effects of defeat. She has also developed a model of chronic social defeat in female rats. Much of the current work is focused on identifying the neural substrates that mediate the development of resilience or vulnerability and in identifying biomarkers that can predict resilience or vulnerability to stress. She is working with several clinical collaborators to translate her findings to human subjects. Her work has been supported by grants from the NIH, DARPA, the Department of the Army, the NSF, NASA and Merck.


“Do Sex Differences in Gonadal Hormones Determine Sex Differences in PTSD?”
Cynthia Jordan, PhD & Apryl Pooley, PhD Candidate

About Cynthia Jordan, PhD

Cynthia Jordan, PhDUnderstanding brain-behavior relationships is not easy because the brain is extraordinarily complicated.  We as neuroscientists first need to understand how the basic cellular units–neurons and glia–of the brain work and then how they work together as networks to control behavior.  I became interested in the origin of sex differences in behavior because in my mind, it was an obvious inroad for teasing a part the particular brain machinery controlling particular behavior.  Once the machinery is identified, then we have a chance at understanding what makes it work under normal conditions and what goes wrong when disease or injury strikes.  It turns out that virtually all sex differences in the brain emerge because of differences in the hormones produced by the testes in males and the ovaries in females.  Sex hormones then offer the perfect experimental tool for understanding how sex differences in brain and behavior develop.

Our studies in the brain have led to studies on anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); each affects more women than men. Historically, men have been the subject of choice for clinical studies, as well as male animals in laboratory research, leading to little insight about why women are more susceptible to anxiety and PTSD.  Our studies are at the forefront in tackling this problem.  We compare female rats and mice directly to male rats and mice.  While some data suggests that estrogens play a role in confer susceptibility to women for these affective disorders, we are finding that testosterone is a much more powerful agent, appearing to confer protection to men against anxiety and PTSD by acting on specific brain circuits to modulate their activity.

About Apryl Pooley, PhD Candidate

Apryl PooleyI completed my undergraduate studies at Eastern Illinois University in biology/pre-med with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist. In my last year, my neurobiology professor offered me a graduate assistantship to stay on and complete a master’s degree in his lab. That’s where I fell in love with research. My master’s thesis work investigated the role of various steroid hormones on the repair and regeneration of mouse neuronal cell cultures. I found that estradiol promotes neuronal growth through an estrogen receptor mediated mechanism. Interestingly, testosterone had quite the opposite effect, and this work set the stage for my interest in researching sex differences. When I came to Michigan State University to pursue my Ph.D. in neuroscience, I wanted to get back to my interest in psychiatric disorders. I learned of the marked sex differences in several mood and anxiety disorders that are more common in women than in men, and I learned that the vast majority of the research conducted on these disorders used only male subjects. Post-traumatic stress disorder was an area of particular interest to me and also a field that has been especially prone to the male-subject bias, despite PTSD being more common in women. When I discussed my interests with Dr. Cindy Jordan, who ran a sex differences lab that had found sex differences in anxiety in rodents, I decided to join her lab for my dissertation research investigating the role of sex and gonadal steroid hormones in rat models of PTSD. I will defend my dissertation in July 2017 and continue to work with Cindy identifying the neurobiological underpinnings of sex differences in the trauma response. The traumatic stress response is extremely heterogenous and using sex as a biological variable provides a promising inroad to understanding the mechanisms behind why different individuals can respond so differently to trauma.


“High-Density Recording in the SPS Model of PTSD”
Sebastian Haesler, PhD & Israel Liberzon, MD

About Sebastian Haesler, PhD

Sebastian Haesler, PhDSebastian Haesler, PhD received his doctoral degree from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Germany in 2006, after which he completed postdoctoral training with Prof. Nao Uchida at Harvard University. Dr. Haesler is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium and director of Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders (NERF), a young academic research institute, founded by KU Leuven, VIB and imec. The goal of NERF is to advance our understanding of brain function in health and disease, by using and developing novel technologies which integrate neurobiology and nano-scale engineering.



About Israel Liberzon, MD

Israel Liberzon, MDIsrael Liberzon, MD, is a Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience and Director of the Psychiatric Residency Research Track in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan. In 1992, he established the PTSD program at the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor VA Medical Center, a program that has since grown and remains on the forefront of biological research of PTSD worldwide. He also co-founded the Trauma, Stress, and Anxiety Research Group (TSARG) at the University of Michigan, which includes the Psychiatric Affective Neuroimaging Laboratory, a basic science (wet bench) laboratory, a MiRRR genetic repository, and a clinical research group.

Israel’s primary research interest centers on emotions, stress, and stress-related disorders like PTSD, particularly in the regulation and dysregulation of stress response systems. His work integrates cognitive, functional neuroimaging, neuroendocrinological, and genetic approaches to studying stress, emotions, cognitive-emotion interactions, and the effects of emotions on decision making. Among his most unique contributions are the identification of contextual processing deficits in PTSD, the development of valid and widely used animal models for PTSD, and the collaborative work he co-leads for identifying genetic/genomic risk factors for PTSD.


“The Role of Stress Hormones and Dopamine in a Novel Genetic Rat Model of PTSD”
Susan Martelle, PhD

About Susan Martelle, PhD

Susan Martelle, PhD

I am a behavioral neuropharmacologist whose research interests include the interaction between stress and reward pathways, specifically focusing on the behavioral, health, and cognitive consequences of deviations from homeostasis. During the completion of my dissertation at Wake Forest, I used PET imaging, pharmacology, and cognitive studies in non-human primates to better understand the role of the dopamine D3 receptor system in learning and behavior. My research of the dopaminergic system expanded from predominantly behavioral approaches in non-human primates to molecular approaches in humans by completing genetic association analyses that related polymorphisms in dopamine and biologically related pathways with cognitive performance in a predominantly obese and diabetic population.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati, I will employ a multidisciplinary approach to better understand the neuroendocrinology of stress. The development of novel, fear-based behavioral methods combined with studies of neurophysiological dynamics are needed to acquire, analyze and integrate this knowledge. My research will focus on 1) developing measures that can improve the field’s understanding of complex behaviors, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and associated biological networks and 2) analyzing changes in neurocircuitry to infer dynamics of the stress-signal transduction pathways at the interface of the nervous and endocrine systems.