Temple Neuroendocrinology & Behavior Laboratory
The Neuroendocrinology and Behavior Lab (NBL), led by Dr. Debra Bangasser, is studying the effects of stress on the brain, and how those effects differ between males and females.
Sex differences have been observed in the prevalence and presentation of many neuropsychiatric disorders. For example, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is more prevalent in men, while major depression is more prevalent in women. For many neuropsychiatric disorders, stress is associated with symptom onset and severity. These differences led Dr. Bangasser and her lab to investigate whether neurobiological differences in how males and females respond to stress could account for sex differences in disease prevalence.
To study the effect of stress, Bangasser and her team are modeling aspects of neuropsychiatric disorders using rats. Rats are interesting subjects in stress research because, at the biological level, their response to stress is very similar to humans, but they also can be studied at a molecular level that is not feasible in human brains with current technology.
One ongoing line of research in the lab is to examine the effect of stress on behaviors that play a significant role in the etiology (that is, symptom development) of many psychiatric disorders. For example, the ability to pay and maintain attention is gravely disrupted in disorders like ADHD and schizophrenia. To understand the potential effect of chronic stress on attention, undergraduates expose rats to stressors, such as a predator odor, then observe their behavior in operant conditioning boxes that reward careful attention with food. Interestingly, the lab has found that attention suffers more in response to such stress in males than in females.
As these research projects unfold, the Bangasser team welcomes a new graduate student this summer, as well as several new undergraduates, but is always looking for additional volunteers. The lab is a great place to learn a variety of techniques—from animal behavior tasks to cellular visualization—used to find molecular answers to behavioral questions relevant to psychology.
by Madeleine Salvatore
Bangasser Lab 2016-2017 research team (from top left): Kimberly Wiersielis (doctoral student), Joy Bergmann (undergraduate), Samantha Eck (doctoral student), Madeleine Salvatore (research technician), Debra Bangasser (principle investigator), Alexander Telenson (masters student), Brittany Wicks (research technician), Nina Duncan (undergraduate student), Marni Shore (undergraduate student), Attilio Ceretti (undergraduate student), Arron Hall (undergraduate student), and Natalie Newcamp (undergraduate student), not depicted Hanna Lefebo (undergraduate student), Julia Kirkland (undergraduate student), and Harah Jang (undergraduate student)