Seminars & Events

Friday, October 4, 2013: Dr. Laurie Ryan, SMCM '86 (National Institute on Aging) will speak on "Alzheimer's Disease: Targets and Treatments" at 3:00 pm in Goodpaster Hall 195.

Monday, October 21, 2013: Dr. Greg Elmer (University of Maryland Baltimore) will speak on "Domains and Constructs in Motivation: Where Does the Habenula Fit In?" at 4:45 pm in Goodpaster Hall 195

Friday, October 25, 2013:  Dr. Terry Davidson (American University) will speak on "Why We Overeat and Become Obese?  It Could be What We Think!" at 3:00 pm in Goodpaster Hall 195.

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Alumni Highlight

Dr. Gwen Calhoon '06 recently received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Maryland Baltimore, and was inducted into Nu Rho Psi.

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SMP Spotlight

Katie Gluskin and Jeff Haus present their SMP
Katie Gluskin and Jeff Haus, "Entorhinal Cortex Lesions, Habituation, and Latent Inhibition," 2013. Gluskin and Haus, the 2013 co-winners of the Neuroscience Award, infused a neurotoxin into the entorhinal cortex of rats to induce a lesion, and measured the resulting habituation and latent inhibition behavior within a fear conditioning paradigm.

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Neurosciences Faculty

Aileen M. Bailey. Professor of Psychology. B.A., Beloit College (1994); M.S., Ph.D., University of Georgia (1996, 1999)

I am interested in the neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of higher cognitive functions. In particular, I investigate the involvement of various neuroanatomical areas in a cognitively demanding task, learning set formation. Learning set formation is a task that is infrequently used by behavioral neuroscientists but offers a closer model to human learning than many of the heavily examined animal learning tasks. My laboratory has found that a general neurotoxin produces a profound impairment in the ability to form a learning set. However, a specific toxin that destroys only neurons that contain acetylcholine does not block learning set acquisition. My lab continues to investigate what areas of the brain are most crucial to this particular learning task. We will also be looking at pharmaceutical agents that might alleviate any impairment in learning set that we see following brain damage.

I am also interested in examining pre-clinical markers of Parkinson's disease (PD). I have recently begun examining a novel progressive animal model of PD looking for changes in behavior that may occur prior to the onset of motor impairment. Investigations include changes in olfaction, mood, and cognition.


Anne Marie Brady. Associate Professor of Psychology. B.A., St. Mary's College of Maryland; M.A., Ph.D., Ohio State University (1997, 2000)

I am interested in the neurobiology of psychiatric diseases, particularly schizophrenia and drug addiction. In particular, I have been investigating cognitive deficits in a neurodevelopmental rat model of schizophrenia. Neonatal (7-day old) rats are given a specific lesion in the hippocampus, and are then allowed to grow to adulthood, when they begin to display behavioral and cognitive abnormalities that can be linked with common behavioral symptoms of schizophrenia. I am currently studying higher cognitive processes in these rats, including spatial learning and memory, attentional set-shifting, and formation of a learning set.

There are also links between schizophrenia and drug addiction, with a high percentage of schizophrenia patients abusing drugs (often nicotine, cocaine, alcohol, and/or marijuana).  I am also investigating possible neurobiological links between these two states, using the same neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia and adding the self-administration of drugs.

Wesley P. Jordan. Professor of Psychology. BS, University of Puget Sound (1974); Ph.D., Dartmouth College (1979).

As a behavioral neuroscientist, I am interested in how the brain controls behavior. In particular, I want to know how the brain is changed as a result of learning and how memories are stored. Most of my work involves studying how rats (and their brains) learn in simple situations in the laboratory. Specific areas of active research include the brain mechanisms supporting habituation, a simple form of learning to disregard unimportant stimuli; cocaine sensitization, a process by which repeated low doses of cocaine produce a heightened sensitivity to subsequent doses of this drug; and animal models of psychopathology.

Elizabeth C. Leininger. Assistant Professor of Neurobiology. B.A. Swarthmore College (2004); M.A., PhD, Columbia University (2005, 2010)

As a neuroethologist, I wish to understand how neural and neuromuscular circuits controlling animal behaviors function, develop, and evolve. Specifically, I research how  Xenopus frogs produce their courtship songs. Courtship songs vary across species (and between the sexes within a species) from slow and simple to fast and complex. How has the generally conserved vocal circuit—namely, the hindbrain vocal circuit and the vocal organ itself—evolved to permit this vocal diversity? I use nerve and muscle recordings in the ex vivo "singing" brain and larynx to address this question. I am also interested in the evolution of sex differences in Xenopus songs, particularly the role of developmental processes in shaping male and female song circuits across species. 

Pamela S. Mertz. Associate Professor of Chemistry. B.A., Juniata College (1992); Ph.D., Mayo Graduate School (1999)

My current research focuses on a family of proteins, called the PAT family, which associates with lipid droplets inside cells. We are interested in the functions of the different family members and their roles in lipid metabolism and storage. The composition of PAT proteins differs in adipose tissue and steroidogenic cells from that in liver and muscle but the reasons are unclear. My research is working on characterizing some of these differences.

I also have broader research interests in the area of enzymology, in particular studying phosphatases and metalloenzymes. In the past I have worked with calcineurin, a phosphatase that is abundant in the brain and is involved in various signaling pathways. Functions in the brain include involvement with memory, long-term potentiation, and regulation of many types of ion channels.


John Ramcharitar. Associate Professor of Biology. B.S., The University of the West Indies (1991); M.Phil., The University of the West Indies (1997); Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park (2003)

(on sabbatical 2013-14) In my laboratory, we investigate structure-function relationships in fish auditory systems. Fishes are by far the most abundant vertebrates on the planet (>24,000 species!!!), and they show phenomenal diversity in hearing capabilities. Much of this diversity correlates with an equally impressive array of auditory structures. Additionally, fishes show tremendous variations in the ability to process acoustic stimuli, and in the ability to extract biologically significant sounds from "noisy" environments. Given the increase in human-generated sound in many of the local waterways and systems, studies of fish hearing may be especially important for assessing the effects of anthropogenic noise on aquatic animals. We use anatomical (e.g. scanning electron microscopy) and electrophysiological (e.g. auditory evoked potentials) techniques to explore the fascinating world of fish auditory biology.

Craig N. Streu. Assistant Professor of Biochemistry. B.A., Albion College (2004); Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania (2009) 

My research focuses broadly on chemical methods for studying biological systems.  This includes methods for labeling biomolecules, in vitro evolution of biomolecules, and drug design.  Students in my research lab can develop a broad array of skills from molecular biology and cloning, to chemical synthesis and drug design.  There are several projects taking place concurrently in my research laboratory.

1.    Design of quinone reductase 2 (QR2) inhibitors-Quinone reductase 2 is a protein that has been implicated in free radical production and neurodegenerative diseases.  My lab is designing and synthesizing molecules to inhibit this enzyme.

2.  Transition metal analogs of complex natural products-Many of the medications we use to treat everything from infections to cancer are compounds that are synthesized naturally in our environment.  Unfortunately, some of these compounds are not made in great enough abundance for wide distribution and so chemists must synthesize them.  My laboratory is using the unique structural properties of transition metals to accelerate this process. 

3.    Evolution of RNA-My group is using a technique called SELEX to evolve RNA molecules that will bind to a variety of targets of our choosing.  We plan to use these RNA molecules to study biochemical signaling and create novel inducible protein expression systems.

4.    Inhibitors of microbial secreted enzymes-My lab has an ongoing collaboration developing inhibitors from proteins excreted from pathogenic microorganisms.  Inhibitors of this sort may have implications in a number of fields from bacterial infections to food safety.