I am broadly interested in how early life experience programs the neurobiological systems that regulate adult social and emotional behavior.
I conducted my doctoral work with Dr. Larry J. Young at Emory University. While at Emory, I used prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster), which are small, socially monogamous, biparental rodents, to explore the impact of family structure on family dynamics and development. Through this work, I showed that family structure significantly influences the early life experience of prairie vole pups, the subsequent development of their social and emotional behavior as adults, and at least two socially relevant neuropeptide systems. Interestingly, several of the findings demonstrated sex differences.
In addition to my work on prairie vole family environment, I spearheaded an effort to automate the analysis prairie vole partner preference testing, I worked to examine the interplay between the oxytocin and CRF systems, and I helped examine the biological and behavioral effects of social loss in prairie voles.
Many of the discoveries I made at Emory University indicated that early family environment was somehow programming long-term behavioral outcomes in a sex-dependent manner. I therefore worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Neuroendocrine Studies in the laboratory of Nancy G. Forger at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. My work there focused on the developmental organization of the brain through the process of programmed cell death (apoptosis) and how steroid hormones (e.g., androgens and estrogens) are epigenetically regulating apoptosis to produce morphological sex differences in brain areas that regulate social and emotional behaviors. This work incorporates the use of normal and genetically manipulated mice, epigenetic profiling techniques, and anatomical analyses throughout early development.
As a new assistant professor at Quinnipiac University, I continued my collaboration with Nancy G. Forger, now at Georgia State University, and re-initiated my work studying the effects of early family environment on development in prairie voles.
Most recently, I have been working on a way to better leverage computer-based behavior scoring to quantify individual differences in behavior. Progress on this front, allowed me to obtain a NARSAD Young Investigator Award grant ($70,000) from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. This grant supports my study of how genes and environment interact to influence social behavior.
For more information, see my Publications page.