Lisa H. Conti, Ph.D.
In my laboratory, we use behavioral neuroscience methods, and a systems approach, to investigate the involvement of particular brain regions and neurotransmitters in animal models of psychiatric disorders. We study behaviors that model information processing deficits, such as those seen in patients with schizophrenia, and fear-related behaviors, such as those seen in post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rodent models are commonly used to study the neurobiology of specific aspects of psychiatric disorders. These models allow us to investigate the potential roles of particular brain systems in such disorders, as well as the interaction among systems. One of my major interests is the effects of stress, and the neuropeptides that are released during stress, on behaviors that are endophenotypes of characteristics of psychiatric disorders. The neuropeptide, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) is released during stress, and is thought to be involved in depression and anxiety. We have found that central administration of this peptide neurotransmitter to rats diminishes a form of information processing called prepulse inhibition (PPI). PPI is the decrease in the startle response that results from brief presentation of a non-startling stimulus. PPI is diminished in patients with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. One goal of our research is to study how, and in which parts of the brain, CRF acts to diminish PPI. One possibility we are examining is whether the effect of CRF on PPI is due to a CRF-induced release of the monoamine neurotransmitters. We are also examining the interaction between CRF and the monoamines on other behavioral endophenotypes that model complex disorders. Additionally, we have found that a particular inbred rat strain shows very low levels of PPI, suggesting that this rat strain is a potential genetic model for the types of information processing deficits seen in some psychiatric disorders. Therefore, a second goal is to further characterize the nature of the PPI deficit in this rat strain, and to examine whether this strain displays other phenotypes informative for the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders.
PhD., University of Vermont, Physiological Psychology
Phone: (860) 679-4793
Fax: (860) 679-1296
Lisa H. Conti, MC1410
University of Connecticut Health Center
263 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030-1410