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Paul M Plotsky, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Short Description: Neurobiology of stress; genetic and environmental determinants of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function and anxiety-like behavior.

Long Description: Laboratory Interests: Dr. Plotsky has three major research interests: (1) central and feedback regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, (2) mechanisms by which early environment induces phenotypic plasticity; and (3) long-term consequences of adverse early experience on vulnerability to psychiatric and medical illnesses. Dr. Plotskys laboratory has focused on mechanisms of neuroendocrine regulation for more than 20 years with an emphasis on hypothalamic and extra-hypothalamic contributions to the control of the growth, reproductive and stress axes. His group has been instrumental in elucidating the coding of different stimuli by the central nervous system via analysis of the temporal patterning of hypothalamic factors secreted into the hypophysial-portal circulation as well as the neuronal inputs mediating this chorus. Systematic studies in mice, rats and non-human primates have focussed on interactions between the unfolding genetic blueprint for the central nervous system and early environmental stimuli. Utilizing an in vivo systems approach encompassing neuroendocrine characterization, behavioral analysis, neuronal tract-tracing, immediate early gene activation analysis, electrophysiological studies, microdialysis and voltammetric sampling of regional neurochemical activity, and both in situ hybridization and microchip gene expression profiling, Dr. Plotskys group has demonstrated stable alterations in response to moderate neonatal maternal separation in multiple animal models. Morphometric studies of early experience-induced alterations in neuronal diameter, dendritic-tree complexity, synaptic density, and the balance between neurogenesis and apoptosis are in progress using stereological methods. The results of these studies inform the design and interpretation of clinical studies in populations at high risk for psychiatric disorders including children exposed to abuse or neglect, infants of mothers with postpartum depression, and premature infants exposed to intensive medical interventions. Research Projects: Basic neuroendocrine studies of central and feedback regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis are focussed on signaling mechanisms mediating neurohypophysial peptide gene expression, secretion, and degradation. Trainees may be involved in physiological and/or pharmacological experiments to induce activation of glucocorticoid-mediated negative feedback inhibition of these processes which might be assessed by microdialysis sampling, in situ hybridization for various genes, local CNS antisense knock-down or virally-mediated over-expression studies, and receptor expression, binding, or coupling studies. Studies of the mechanisms by which early environment induces phenotypic plasticity might involve trainees in a wide variety of technical approaches. They may utilize stereologic techniques of neuronal counting; studies of CNS cell division, apoptosis, and migration coupled with methods to identify cells as neuronal or glial; tract tracing methods coupled with in situ hybridization and/or immunocytochemistry; electrophysiological recording of single unit neuronal activity; mouse genetics experiments to identify quantitative trait loci associated with behavioral or neuroendocrine characteristics; laser confocal microdissection of specific neuronal cell populations for studies of differences in gene expression levels or expressed sequence tags.


Associated Keywords:

Anxiety Disorders
Emotions / Mental Disorders
Neonatal
Neuroanatomy
Neurochemistry
Neuroendocrinology
Neuropharmacology
Neuroscience
Psychiatry
Psychology, Developmental

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Last Update: 10/21/2014