Section on Functional Neuroanatomy (SFN)
Our group uses the tools of modern neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, and molecular biology to define and map out regulatory events that occur in animals when they respond to immune challenges, drug administration, psychosocial stress, and environmental enrichment. Responsive brain structures and cell types are identified by in situ hybridization histochemistry and immunohistochemistry. Following immune challenges or psychosocial stress paradigms, we measure behavioral outcomes with multiple behavioral phenotyping assays.
We measure neurochemical changes by mapping responsive genes and proteins in brain, tracking responsive molecules in transgenic reporter mice, real-time quantitative PCR and microarray analysis of gene induction, Western blotting, and EMSA analysis. Molecular pathways are confirmed in primary cell culture experiments. We employ viral vector-based delivery of DNA constructs to limbic system targets, and we characterize behavioral phenotypes in conditional transgenic and knockout mice. Our recent work focuses on the roles of immune molecules, including the transcription factor NF-kB, in emotion processing, the roles of stress hormones and adult neurogenesis in psychosocial stress, and the protective effects of environmental enrichment in chronic stress paradigms.
We are also using the maternal immune activation (MIA) paradigm to examine changes in fetal brain and adult offspring following immune challenge by endotoxin administration in rats and mice.