Major: Integrative Neuroscience (formerly Psychobiology)
School: Harpur College of Arts and Sciences
Project Title: Modulating Serotonin Function to Optimize Dopamine Replacement Therapy in Parkinson’s Disease
The efficacy of long-term treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD) with L-DOPA is often compromised by the emergence of abnormal involuntary movements (L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia). Given that 90 percent of PD patients will eventually display these deleterious side effects, development of novel adjunctive treatments to L-DOPA is paramount. However, this remains a challenge, since motor behaviors operate via several neural mechanisms. Our lab recently identified the serotonin (5-HT) system, specifically 5-HT1A receptors and 5-HT transporters (SERT), as possible targets for the reduction of L-DOPA side effects. In the last 5-10 years, drug development in the field of depression has yielded several promising 5-HT compounds; some have been indicated for other diseases as they act at multiple targets. One of these is the third-generation anti-depressant drug Vilazodone, which has purported affinity for both 5-HT1A receptors and SERT. The goal of my project is to test if therapy with Vilazodone reduces abnormal involuntary movements in hemi-Parkinson rats.
Samantha’s faculty mentor is Christopher Bishop, associate professor of psychology, Harpur College of Arts and Sciences.
Where is your hometown?
Why do you think research is important?
Participating in research is an amazing experience because it is an engaging way to help people. As a researcher, it is my job to explore the unknown with an open and creative mind so I can learn about things like Parkinson’s disease and treatment that can better a person’s quantity and quality of life.
What are your future plans?
I plan to pursue a PhD in neuroscience, studying neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. I am not sure exactly where I want to study, but probably somewhere in the Midwest or New York City.
Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy musical theater, dancing and baking.
Can you share a fun fact about yourself?
I went to Peru my senior year of high school and stayed in the Amazon rainforest for nine days doing service work with the local people.
Last Updated: 5/12/14