Theme: Behaviour

Invited Speakers on the Theme of Behaviour – SBN Symposia – Awarded Through a Competitive Process

Symposium – Sex Differences in Function and Survival of Neural Networks Governing Cognition and Affect

Dr. Farida SOHRABJI, Texas A&M, USA

 Sex Differences in Ischemic Injury and Neuroprotection

Farida Sohrabji, Ph.D., is the Joseph Shelton Professor of Neuroscience and Associate Department Chair of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics. Dr. Sohrabji obtained a joint doctoral degree in Neurobiology & Biopsychology from the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, and completed her post-doctoral training at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York. She joined the faculty of Texas A&M College of Medicine in 1998.

Dr. Sohrabji directs a federally-funded research program that focuses on sex and age differences in cerebrovascular disease, specifically, biochemical and behavioral changes that occur in stroke-related injury, including brain-immune interactions, biomarkers and therapeutics for ischemic stroke. She was recently appointed Fellow of the American Heart Association (Stroke Council). Current research in her lab focuses on the therapeutic potential of the peptide hormone IGF-1 in aging females (funded by NINDS), and sex and age differences in miRNA and epigenetic markers, with a view to developing biomarkers for diseases and uncovering new therapeutic targets (NIA/ORWH). Dr. Sohrabji’s professional service includes NIH and AHA study sections. Dr. Sohrabji is actively involved in the training of graduate and medical students and mentorship of junior faculty. Dr. Sohrabji is the founder and Director of the Women’s Health in Neuroscience Program at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and a strong advocate for the inclusion of gender/sex differences in biomedical research.

Dr. Karyn FRICK, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA

 Sex Differences in Memory Consolidation

Dr. Karyn Frick completed her B.A. in Biology and Psychology at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.  She then went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, where she used rodent models to study how aging affects learning and memory, and investigate potential treatments for reducing age-related memory decline.  In her postdoctoral work in the Department of Biological Sciences at Wellesley College, Dr. Frick began studying how hormone loss due to reproductive aging impairs memory and influences brain function in female mice.  She continued this work in her first faculty position in the Department of Psychology at Yale University.  In 10 years at Yale, Dr. Frick and her students began a successful line of research identifying the molecular and cellular mechanisms through which sex steroid hormones like estradiol and progesterone regulate memory formation in young and aging mice. 

Dr. Frick was recruited to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2010, where she is currently a Professor in the Neuroscience area of the Department of Psychology and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.  At UWM, Dr. Frick and her students have continued to make strides investigating the neural mechanisms underlying hormonal modulation of learning and memory, and have expanded this work to include both sexes, multiple brain regions, mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, and development of novel selective estrogen receptor modulators.  To date, she has published over 80 empirical papers, review papers, and book chapters. 

Dr. Frick’s research is currently funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the UWM Research Foundation, and she has previously received funding from the National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Drug Abuse, American Federation for Aging Research, Ethel F. Donaghue Women’s Health Investigator Program at Yale, and Yale Claude D. Pepper Center.  She currently serves on the International and Trainee Professional Development Travel Awards Selection Committees of the Society for Neuroscience, and the Executive Committees of the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences and Pavlovian Society.  She was previously the Fellows Chair of Division 6 of the American Psychological Association and sits on the editorial boards of Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

Dr. Elena CHOLERIS, University of Guelph, Canada

 Sex Differences in Dopamine-Mediated Social Learning

Elena Choleris is a Full Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Guelph where she is an active member of the Neuroscience Program.  She obtained her Laurea (1994) in Biological Sciences and her PhD (1998) in Animal Biology from the University of Parma, Italy. She then pursued post-doctoral training at the University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada and at the Rockefeller University, NY, USA. Elena Choleris has held a faculty position at the University of Guelph since 2003.

Elena Choleris’ research investigates the neurohormonal underpinnings of cognition in rodents with a special focus on social cognition. In recent years Dr. Choleris and her trainees have been investigating the rapid effects of estrogens on the mouse brain and on social and non-social types of learning, including social and object recognition, the social transmission of information (social learning), and spatial learning. Additional current research is investigating the involvement of acetylcholine, oxytocin and dopamine in social learning and their interplay with the sex hormones. In particular, the focus of her ICN/SBN talk will be the finding that the main receptors for dopamine in the dorsal hippocampus are involved in social learning in mice and that this involvement is different in males and females.

Dr. Liisa GALEA, University of British Columbia, Canada

 Sex Differences in Affective Behaviours and Neurogenesis

Liisa Galea is a Professor in the Department of Psychology, Director of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, and a member of the Centre for Brain Health at the University of British Columbia. My research investigates how sex hormones influence brain health and disease in both females and males. The main goal of my research is to improve brain health for women and men by examining the influence of sex and sex hormones on normal and diseased brain states such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease.  

The facts: Dr. Galea obtained her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Western Ontario in 1994 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller University in New York City until 1996. She has been an invited speaker and a keynote speaker at numerous international conferences over the past 10 years. Dr. Galea is a Distinguished University Scholar, has held a Michael Smith Senior Scholar Award, an Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)- Discovery Accelerator Supplement, Cattell Sabbatical Award and won the Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction award (Technology, Science and Research). She was recognized as a Fellow at International Behavioral Neuroscience Society (IBNS) and the Kavli Foundation. She has over 130 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and has over 7000 citations with over 600 citations per year since 2013. Dr. Galea is the chief editor of FiN (Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology IF: 9.425), an editor of eNeuro, past section editor of Neuroscience and and serves/served on the editorial boards of Endocrinology, Hormones and Behavior, and Neuroscience. Dr. Galea serves/served on a National Institute of Health (USA) peer-review study section and on peer review panels for the major federal agencies: Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and NSERC. She has held operating grants from CIHR, NSERC and Alzheimer Society of Canada and has secured over $6M as the principal investigator and $2.5M as co-principal investigator PI in operating grants over her career.

The Research: Although sex differences exist in many brain diseases, research targeting sex as a factor in brain health has been scarce. Dr. Galea’s research is vital in filling this knowledge gap, specifically in understanding how sex and hormones influence neuroplasticity in females as too often women’s health is ignored in research. This preclinical work is essential for developing tailored treatments for brain disease in both women and men. Her research examines the effects of hormones, stress and reproductive experience on neuroplasticity, including adult neurogenesis (the birth of new brain cells in the adult), and subsequent behaviour. Liisa developed the first animal models of postpartum depression, was among the first researchers worldwide to study hormonal control of adult neurogenesis and the impact of motherhood on the brain in later life. An understanding of how neurogenesis is regulated may provide clues for devising new therapeutic treatments for diseases that involve neuronal loss and show greater prevalence in women, such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

The fun stuff: When Liisa is not teaching and working on her research she dedicates her time to being a wife and mother of 2 teenagers. Liisa is very proud of her Estonian/Maltese heritage and specializes in baking Estonian Kringle. She is most proud of her two greatest accomplishments, her two adorable ‘adult’ children, to whom she has passed on her love of science and cookie dough. She lives in North Vancouver and enjoys trail hiking with her very bad dog. Indeed you can find Liisa most weekends hiking on the Baden Powell trail. 

Symposium – Circadian and Seasonal Changes in Brain Function and Behaviour

Dr. Annaliese K BEERY, Smith College, USA

How Day Length Alters Brains and Social Behaviours in Voles 

Dr. Beery is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Biology at Smith College, and is a member of the graduate faculty in Neuroscience & Behavior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Dr. Beery was an undergraduate at Caltech and at Williams College, earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UC Berkeley, and was a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at UCSF/UC Berkeley before joining the faculty at Smith. She was the 2015 winner of the Frank A. Beach award in Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.

Dr. Beery’s research focuses on neural mechanisms that support life in social groups and the peer relationships between group members.  Dr. Beery has worked with over 15 species of rodents in the field and lab, with the greatest emphasis on winter sociality in meadow voles. Additional active topics within the lab include phylogenetic comparisons of oxytocin receptor distributions and behavior, sex-specific variability in traits (and lack thereof), hormones and human lactation, and long term effects of early life exposures.  

Dr. Randy NELSON, West Virginia University School of Medicine, USA

Light at Night, Clocks and Health

Randy J. Nelson is a Distinguished University Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He holds the Dr. John D. and E. Olive Brumbaugh Chair in Brain Research and Teaching and co-directs the OSU Neuroscience Research Institute.

Nelson earned his AB degree at the University of California at Berkeley. He earned a PhD in Psychology, as well as a second PhD in Endocrinology from Berkeley, the first to earn two PhDs simultaneously in the US.  He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas, Austin.

Nelson served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins from 1986-2000 after which he moved to Ohio State.  He has published >400 scientific articles and several books describing studies in biological rhythms, behavioral neuroendocrinology, stress, immune function, and aggressive behavior. His work has been continuously funded since 1984.  He has been elected to Fellow status in several scientific associations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Association, Association for Psychological Science, and the Animal Behavior Society. Nelson has served on many federal grant panels and currently serves on the editorial boards of five scientific journals.  He was awarded the Distinguished Scholar Award at OSU in 2006, as well as the University Distinguished Lecturer, and the OSU Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2009.  In 2012, he was appointed as the inaugural Distinguished Professor of the College of Medicine, and in 2013 the Board of Trustees conferred the title of Distinguished University Professor upon him.

Dr. Eric MINTZ, Kent State University, USA

Food, Estrous Cycles and Circadian Clock

Eric Mintz received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Wesleyan University in 1990 and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1995.  His postdoctoral training was conducted at Georgia State University under the mentorship of Dr. H. Elliott Albers, where his research focused on the role of glutamate, GABA and serotonin in the suprachiasmatic nucleus in regulating circadian clock function.  He currently holds the positions of Professor of Biological Sciences and Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Kent State University.  His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.  Dr. Mintz has spent his career studying the neural mechanisms of circadian clock function, including how environmental input affects the timing of the master clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, and how clocks drive rhythms of behavioral activity.  Most recently, he has been examining the impact of the timing of feeding on circadian rhythms of locomotor activity and the suprachiasmatic nucleus, as well as sex differences in clock function.

 Dr. Lily YAN, Michigan State University, USA

Lights, Emotion and Cognition

Lily Yan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Program at Michigan State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Physiology from Kobe University School of Medicine (Japan) and received post-doctoral training at Columbia University (New York), during which her research focused on the molecular and neural mechanisms of circadian rhythms. She joined the faculty at Michigan State University and started to investigate the modulatory effects of ambient light on emotion and cognition.  Using a diurnal rodent model, her research program is aimed to understand the neural mechanisms through which light affects mood, anxiety and spatial learning, and ultimately to provide insights into how environmental lighting conditions modulate emotion and cognition in humans.

Symposium – Mind the Gap: How Translational Research can Help Bridge the Gap in our Understanding of the Environmental, Behavioural, and Neuroendocrine Mechanisms Regulating Resiliency and Adaptation to Early-Life Adversity

Dr. Amanda KENTNER, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, USA

The Role of Environmental Complexity in the Protection and Rehabilitation against Early-Life Adversity

Amanda (Mandy) Kentner earned her PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Ottawa, Canada, focusing on sex differences in depression. Since 2012, Dr. Kentner has been at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, in Boston Massachusetts, where she is now an Associate Professor of Psychology. Using rodent models, her laboratory has been investigating the effects of early life (e.g. fetal, neonatal) pathogen exposure on brain development and later life disruptions in behavior. Moreover, Dr. Kentner’s laboratory has a specific interest in how environmental enrichment (e.g. social enhancement, physical activity, sensory stimulation) and other environmental manipulations (e.g. maternal care, microbiome) may rescue these effects.  

Dr. Larry YOUNG, Emory University, USA

The Oxytocin System Promotes Resilience to the Effects of Neonatal Isolation on Adult Social Attachment in Female Prairie Voles

Dr. Larry J. Young, PhD is Director of the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience and of the Silvio O. Conte Center for Oxytocin and Social Cognition at Emory University in Atlanta.  He is also William P. Timmie Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine and chief of the Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.  Dr. Young has published over 170 peer reviewed publications, including premier journals such as Science, Nature, Nature Neuroscience, PNAS and Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.  He is Past-President of the international Society for Social Neuroscience.  Dr. Young earned his B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Georgia, and earned his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Young joined the Emory faculty in 1996. Dr. Young has most recently established a new Center for Social Neural Networks at the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

Dr. Young has received several awards for his academic achievements including the Golden Brain Award, the Frank Beach Award, the Daniel H. Efron Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, and has been elected as Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Young’s research seeks to understand how the brain functions to regulate social relationships. His research has revealed that brain chemicals such as oxytocin and vasopressin regulate the neural processing of social information and promote the formation of social bonds by acting in specific neural pathways. Much of his research uses socially monogamous prairie voles as a model organism.  More recently he has been exploring the neural bases of empathy in prairie voles. He uses state-of-the-art technology including viral vector transgenics, CRISPR, electrophysiology, optogenetics and genomics to investigate the regulation and diversity of social behavior in voles.  He has also developed paradigms using prairie voles that are being used to screen drugs that enhance social function, and is developing novel strategies for drug discovery for treating social impairments in psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Young is the author of The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction, which explores the latest discoveries of how brain chemistry influences all aspects of our relationships with others.   

Dr. Susanne BRUMMELTE, Wayne State University, USA

The Rat in the NICU: Mimicking Early-Life Stressors of Preterm Infants for Translational Studies of Early Adversity

I am currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, and my research focusses on early life adversity and its impact on brain and behavioral development. In particular, I am interested in the consequences of exposure to depression, antidepressant medication, stress or glucocorticoids and pain during the prenatal or postnatal period and how it affects the outcome of males and females. In my Developmental Psychobiology lab at WSU, we are using rats as the animal model of choice to study how exposure to early adverse conditions can impact the maturation of the nervous system and thus lead to long-term psychobiological and neuroendocrine adaptations.

Dr. Marsha CAMPBELL-YEO, Dalhousie University, Canada

The Impact of Social Context and Environment on Early Neonatal Adversity

Dr. Marsha Campbell-Yeo is a certified neonatal nurse practitioner, an Associate Professor at Dalhousie University School of Nursing, and a Clinician Scientist at the IWK Heath Centre with cross appointment to the Department of Pediatrics, and Psychology and Neuroscience. She maintains .2 in the NICU in the role of a neonatal nurse practitioner. She is a CIHR New Investigator. Her research lab, primarily funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research and Canadian Foundation of Innovation Grant, entitled “Mechanisms, Outcomes, and Mobilization of maternally-Led Interventions for Newborn Care” (MOM-LINC), provides  an interdisciplinary research environment for the development of innovative and non-invasive healthcare interventions that engage mothers and families in the management and care of neonates. She was recently named one of 150 Nurses for Canada by the Canadian Nurses Association, marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation.


Symposium – SBN Young Investigator Award Lectures

Dr. Maggie MOHR, University of California, USA

SBN Young Investigator Award

Margaret A. Mohr received her BA from Hope College in 2009, where she studied the role of galanin-like peptide in the onset of puberty of male and female rats.  She then entered into the Neuroscience Program at Michigan State University, where she joined the laboratory of Dr. Cheryl Sisk.  Her doctoral dissertation research focused on pubertal addition of neurons and glia to sexually dimorphic brain structures and how this cell birth relates to adult reproductive function, and was awarded her Ph.D. for this work in 2015.  Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Micevych at University of California Los Angeles, where she is studying the development of estrogen signaling in newborn hypothalamic astrocytes. 

Dr. Kristina SMILEY, University of Otago, New Zealand

SBN Young Investigator Award

Kristina O. Smiley received a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2017 under the advisement of Dr. Elizabeth Adkins-Regan. Her doctoral dissertation research was on the role of the hormone prolactin and parental care behavior in the biparental zebra finch. During her graduate studies, she was an American Association of University Women Dissertation fellow and a Graduate Women in Science Vessa Notchev Research Fellow. While her primary research focus is the neuroendocrine basis of parental care, she maintains a strong interest in the role of hormones in social behavior generally, through an evolutionary and comparative perspective. She is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Otago, working under Dr. Dave Grattan at the Centre for Neuroendocrinology. There she is studying on the role of prolactin in modulating the neural circuitry underlying maternal and paternal care in rodents.



Dr. Joanna SPENCER-SEGAL, University of Michigan, USA

SBN Young Investigator Award

Joanna Spencer-Segal, MD, PhD, is a clinical lecturer in Internal Medicine and research investigator in the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Dr. Spencer-Segal obtained her Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University in 2009, in the laboratory of Neuroendocrinology headed by Dr. Bruce McEwen, and her MD from Weill Cornell Medical College in 2011. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on estrogen modulation of hippocampal synaptic plasticity in the mouse. Dr. Spencer-Segal then moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to pursue clinical training in internal medicine and endocrinology, and a research fellowship with Huda Akil. Her postdoctoral work focuses on the neuroendocrine stress response during critical illness, and its relationship to psychiatric morbidity in survivors. For this work, she received the Anuradna Rao Memorial Award from Neuron and a NARSAD Young Investigator grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.



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