About Rebecca Shansky
Our research focuses on the neural connections between the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the amygdala, and sex differences in how this circuit processes fear and responds to stress. The mPFC and amygdala are frequently reported to be sites of dysfunction in stress-related mental illnesses like Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the symptoms of which may be a result of abnormal cross-talk between the two regions. Since women are twice as likely as men to develop these disorders, relevant research in female animals is particularly important.
In the lab, we combine classic neuroanatomy techniques with state-of-the-art confocal microscopy to reconstruct neurons in 3D. By correlating structural information with behavioral measures, we can identify potential markers of vulnerability and resilience. In addition, we use behavioral pharmacology and immunofluorescence to probe interactions between ovarian hormones and neurotransmitter systems. Specifically, we are interested in estrogen’s ability to modulate dopamine actions in the mPFC, and how this can affect memory for a traumatic event.
Stress-related mental illnesses like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) are twice as common in women, but relevant pre-clinical research on the mechanisms of stress and fear has primarily been conducted in male animals. Our work explores the relationships between neural structure and function when both males and females experience aversive events, using behavioral and neuroanatomical techniques to identify sex-specific mechanisms of stress-induced plasticity.
Our work explores the relationships between neural structure and function when both males and females experience aversive events, using behavioral and neuroanatomical techniques to identify sex-specific mechanisms of stress-induced plasticity.