Neuroscience


Core Faculty

  

Dr. Gretchen Hanson Gotthard
Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
     B.S., University of North Dakota
     Ph.D., Kent State University

Courses taught
:
Brain & Behavior (NSC 310)
Advanced Seminar in Neuroscience (NSC 401)
Memory & Amnesia (PSY 410)
Neuroscience of Anxiety (NSC 3XX)

Research interests:
My research program is currently focused on addressing the question: “What kinds of behavioral and pharmacological manipulations can be used to disrupt memory?”  My lab addresses this broad question by examining both appetitive and aversive forms of learning and memory, and does so with experiments involving both rat and human populations.  Much of our work stems from reconsolidation theory (“old”, presumably “safe”, memories can be made vulnerable to the effects of an amnesic agent simply through “reactivation”).  These findings open doors for the treatment of some forms of psychopathology that include large memory components [e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression].  We employ novel behavior techniques in our lab to address these questions, including the sand maze (an appetitive alternative to the industry-standard spatial task, called the Morris water maze), and novel animal models of PTSD and depression.  Our human memory lab is working to refine new “treatments” for PTSD-like behavior, as well as examining factors influencing appetitive forms of memory.  Our recent work on a new theory, “updated” consolidation theory, extends reconsolidation theory to show that not only “active” information is vulnerable to amnesic agents, but information that is “active, and changing” is necessary for memory disruption.

 
  

Assistant professor of biology 

Dr. Jordanna H. Sprayberry

Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
     B.S., University of Rhode Island
     Ph.D., University of Washington
     Postdoctoral fellow, University of Washington
     Postdoctoral fellow, University of Arizona

Courses taught:
Neurons & Networks (NSC 311)
Advanced Seminar in Neuroscience (NSC 401)
Sensory Systems & Behavior (NSC 3XX)

Research interests:
I am fundamentally interested in how animals work – what drives their behavior, and how their behavior affects evolutionary and ecological relationships.  I fulfill these interests with a research program broadly organized around the neuroethology of pollination, how sensory processing of pollinators drives behavior, as well as relevant plant-insect interactions. I utilize diverse techniques in my pursuit of these questions, including computational analysis, neurophysiology, field studies, and behavior.  Moreover, I actively involve student researchers in the process – providing them with a diverse experimental and analytical toolkit.  Examples of ongoing collaborative research with students include:

Effects of noninsecticidal agrochemicals on bumblebee olfaction
Bumblebees are critical pollinators in natural and agricultural ecosystems.  While foraging, they receive complex sensory signals from flowers, including olfactory information.  Interestingly, agrochemicals can have strong olfactory signatures themselves.  When applied directly to flowering crops, this confounding olfactory information could have negative consequences on bumblebee foraging behavior.  My lab is investigating how non-insecticidal agrochemicals modify foraging behavior in bumblebees from both behavioral and neurophysiological perspectives.

Visual and olfactory integration in bumblebees
Sensory information produced by flowers is presumably used as an advertisement to pollinators.  These floral signals are typically multi-modal.  Interestingly, until recently, most investigations of pollinator behavior have focused on uni-modal stimuli.  In seeking to understand bumblebee foraging behavior, it would be beneficial to understand the relative roles of visual and olfactory information.  Periodic investigations in my lab focus on how olfactory and visual information are combined to drive decision making in foraging bumblebees.

 
  



Dr. Jeremy Alden Teissere
Stanley Road Professor of Neuroscience
Chair, Neuroscience Department
     B.A., Willamette University
     Ph.D., University of Wisconsin - Madison
     Postdoctoral fellow, Emory University

Courses taught:
Mind & Brain (NSC 201)
Neurons & Networks (NSC 311)
Advanced Seminar in Neuroscience (NSC 401)
States of Consciousness (NSC 302)
Receptors & Channels (NSC 304)

Research interests:
How are synaptic chemical signals transduced within the nervous system?  How do drugs bind to and activate their receptor targets?  The long-term goal of my research is to understand how the biochemical properties of a neurotransmitter receptor, the γ-aminobutyric acid Type A (GABAA) receptor, underlie its functional behavior.  The GABAA receptor is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter receptor in the mammalian central nervous system, and thus, GABAA receptors are powerful mediators of inhibitory tone in the brain.  The GABAA receptor is also a target for many neuroactive drugs (e.g., benzodiazepines, barbiturates, ethanol, volatile anesthetics) and neurohormones (e.g., progesterone, allopregnanolone).  Although the basic functional role of this receptor is well-understood, little is known about how structural elements of the receptor coordinate GABA binding, channel opening, and sensitivity to modulators.  Additionally, a paucity of information exists about the cellular proteins that regulate GABAA receptor assembly, trafficking to the cell membrane, and downregulation.  I use a multidisciplinary approach, including biochemical, molecular biological, pharmacological and physiological approaches to examine these poorly understood properties.  I am specifically interested in three lines of research:  (1) resolving, at a molecular level, how neuroactive drugs interact with the GABAA receptor; (2) identifying the specific binding site for neurohormones on the GABAA receptor; and (3) identifying putative binding sites on the GABAA receptor for anxiolytic and hypnotic phytoextracts, such as kava kava (Piper methysticum), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).  In collaboration with Dr. Christine Ingersoll, Professor of Chemistry, we are also working to identify the key chemical constituents of these plants responsible for their anxiolytic and hypnotic effects.  This research has been supported by a variety of fellowships from the NIMH.

 
  

Dr. Patrick E. Williams
Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
     B.S., Carnegie Mellon University
     Ph.D., New York University
     Postdoctoral fellow, University of Arizona

Courses taught:
Brain & Behavior (NSC 310)
Neurons & Networks (NSC 311)
Advanced Seminar in Neuroscience (NSC 401)
Neuroprosthetics (NSC 306)

Research interests:
Coming soon!

 


Faculty-Student Research Collaborations

Faculty in the Neuroscience Program are highly engaged in scholarly research and committed to undergraduate research collaborations.  The Neuroscience Collaborative Research Program (NCRP) funds eight research collaborations each summer, providing students with a competitive stipend, free housing, and a modest budget line for equipment purchases for eight weeks of research residency in a faculty member's laboratory.  NCRP is supported by generous gifts and endowments from the Sentience Foundation, the Keeler Family Foundation, and the Lake Road Scholarship.

Many neuroscience majors elect to carry out independent research in a faculty member's laboratory, either in the summer and/or during the academic year. The results of student-faculty collaborations are presented in on-campus poster sessions and at annual professional meetings, such as the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) Annual Meeting and the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience (LVSFN) Annual Conference. Many students have co-authored and published research articles with faculty mentors.

If you are interested in performing research, you should seek out faculty members who would be appropriate mentors for your project at least a half-semester before you want to do research. Faculty often fill their available summer research positions by January/February. You don't need to know exactly what project you want to work on, just some basic ideas of what kind of research interests you. Choose a faculty member with research interests that parallel your own. Your project may be suggested by your faculty member, emerge through conversations with him/her, or develop independently from participation in lab journal clubs. We encourage all students interested in research to read the research descriptions above and, if possible, meet with faculty members one-on-one in order to find the most appropriate match.