EducationB.S., Biology, Cornell University, 1992
M.S., Zoology, Texas A&M University, 1994
Ph.D., Biology, Syracuse University, 2001
ResearchEffects of developmental exposure to pharmaceuticals or pesticides on biogenic amine transporter and receptor binding: Pesticide exposure among agricultural workers and their families is highly correlated with occurrence of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Also, exposure to psychoactive pharmaceuticals during critical stages may contribute to the incidence of autism and related behavioral disorders by disrupting biogenic amine system development. The goal of my research is to examine the mechanisms by which pesticides and pharmaceuticals may affect the development and functioning of biogenic amine neurotransmitter systems. I conduct my research using zebrafish and mice because their genomes have been mapped and the expression of key biogenic amine transporters and receptors can be manipulated. My current focus is on serotonin transporter and receptor density and functioning, but other neurotransmitter systems of interest include dopamine, norepinephrine and GABA. I use radioligand binding assays to examine alterations in the density and pharmacological profile of biogenic amine receptors and transporters, and work with Dr. Daws' laboratory group to examine neurotransmitter transporter functioning in vivo. I also utilize behavioral models to examine the role of biogenic amine systems in learning.
Serotonin system and sociability impairments in mice: Another area of focus in my research is testing pharmaceutical interventions for the social behavioral impairments of autism. More effective pharmacological interventions are needed to improve social interaction deficits, which are prominent among the core symptoms of autism and occur in other psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. Dysfunction of serotonin (5-HT) neurotransmission is heavily implicated in the pathophysiology of these disorders. To uncover common mechanisms underlying aberrant serotonin system function and social interaction behavior, we are investigating the neurochemical characteristics of several inbred mouse strains (BTBR and 129Sv/ImJ) and 5-HT transporter knock-out (SERT -/-) mice, all of which exhibit impaired social interaction in behavioral tests. Through the use of quantitative autoradiography, we have found differences among the strains in SERT and 5-HT1A receptor density and function, which may result from altered 5-HT neurotransmission during adolescent development.