Neurobiology of Stress and Depression


Last Updated: September, 2016




Life experiences have a profound impact on the brain. Our lab is interested in (1) understanding the neurocircuitry of emotion, (2) its modulation by life experience and mood modulatory drugs and (3) the alterations in emotional neurocircuitry that underlie complex psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression. Using animal models of anxiety and depression, some of which are based on perturbations of early life experience, we study the molecular, epigenetic and cellular changes that contribute to long-lasting alterations in behavior.  We explore the importance of early critical periods in setting up vulnerability or resilience to psychopathology by using environmental, pharmacological or pharmacogenetic (DREADDs) perturbations. We are interested in the changes that arise in the development of stress neurocircuitry thus directly impacting adult stress responses, and generating a substrate for vulnerabiltiy to disorders like anxiety and depression. Our studies thus far have focused on the role of serotonin, the serotonin2A receptors, and the neurotrophin, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF ) in contributing to the behavioral alterations and cellular changes in limbic neurocircuitry observed in animal models of anxiety and depression. We also study the molecular and cellular adaptations that arise from sustained antidepressant treatment including fast-acting antidepressant therapies. One such adaptation is the regulation of adult neural stem cells and we are interested in the pathways that regulate adult neurogenesis and their contribution to mood-related behavior. Our focus has been thus far on studying the role of specific monoaminergic receptors and the neurohormone thyroid in the regulation of both basal and antidepressant induced hippocampal neurogenesis. We use pharmacological and genetic approaches, and tools spanning molecular, cell biological and behavioural studies to understand the neurocircuitry of emotion.