Areas of Interest: The overarching goal of our lab is to determine how disruption of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function contributes to mood, addiction, and cognitive disorders. Our research has been motivated by numerous findings, both from our own work and others, which indicate stress, stress hormone exposure, and drugs of abuse that elevate stress hormones are linked to anxiety, depression, drug addiction, and cognitive dysfunction. These effects of stress hormones are also sex-dependent and therefore may be a key factor that contributes to sex differences in mood disorders and drug abuse. The goal of our work is to determine the neural mechanisms through which stress hormone exposure contributes to these disorders with the overall goal to generate targeted treatments for HPA axis associated dysfunction. Specific research interests include:
- The neural mechanisms that underlie alterations in the HPA axis and mood disorders following psychostimulant (e.g. methamphetamine) abuse.
- Effects of elevated stress hormones during early life on brain and behavioral development.
- Sex differences, sexual differentiation of the central nervous system, and the role of gonadal steroid hormones in regulating stress and mood related behaviors such as anxiety and depression.