The Neuroscience Stream addresses the neurophysiology of anxiety and depressive disorders through use of rodent models. Animal models of psychiatric disorders are an invaluable resource with which to explore how dysfunction within neuronal circuits lead to the condition and how pharmacological manipulation can alleviate symptoms.
Our current focus concerns Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). OCD is a chronic neuropsychiatric condition that affects 2-3% of the United States population (6-9 million people) and is characterized by persistent anxiety-producing thoughts accompanied by overwhelming urges to perform repetitive behaviors. Modern treatments for OCD are only effective in 40-60% of patients, do not fully alleviate symptoms, have an 8-10 week delayed onset, and are associated with problematic side effects.
Although a number of OCD animal models have been proposed, no single model has been universally accepted. A new model showing exciting promise was introduced in 2010 in which rats are made to be “OCD-like” by exposing them to the serotonin-norepinephrine uptake inhibitor clomipramine during the post-natal critical period when the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis is developing.
The goals of the Neuroscience Stream are twofold: (1) to evaluate whether neonatal clomipramine exposure offers a valid model of OCD and, if so, (2) to use the model to explore new therapeutic strategies that are more effective and quicker acting. Student research teams use state-of-the-art instrumentation and a combination of modern behavioral and neurochemical techniques to address our experimental questions. Over the 3-semester sequence, students not only learn an array of advanced technical expertise, but also interpersonal, critical thinking, and communication skills.
Neuroscience is cross-disciplinary in nature
Our Stream’s approach to addressing neuroscience research questions integrates multiple levels of investigation and the traditional disciplines of Psychology, Cell Biology, Physiology, Behavior, Genetics, Chemistry, and Medicine.
Neuroscience Research Educator
Dr. Deb Kreiss is the Research Educator for the Neuroscience research stream. The Stream’s current research focus is the identification of an animal model of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that can be used to further understanding and explore new therapeutic avenues for this debilitating disorder that affects 2-3% of the population. Using a combination of behavioral and neurochemical assessment, students explore treatment and sex differences in “OCD-like” rats by first assessing the rats’ cognitive/motor activities and then by analyzing neurochemical levels in post mortem brain tissue using HPLC. Dr. Kreiss completed a B.A. at Cornell Univ, a Ph.D. at Univ of PA, and a postdoctoral fellowship at NIH. She has been a neuroscience professor and research mentor for over two decades.