Active Projects


# Substance use disorders. Under the guidance of my thesis advisor, Yasmin L. Hurd, PhD, my current research investigates the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to substance use disorders. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we recently identified a critical role of the transcription factor CREM in regulating striatal neuroplasticity and impulsivity. This work, recently published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, reveals CREM as an important neurobiological bridge linking substance use disorder to antecedent impulsivity.

# Striatal neurocircuitry and neuroanatomy. The brain is a complex, heterogeneous organ and molecular approaches that address this cellular heterogeneity are needed. Building upon this impetus, recently recognized by others, we are developing techniques methods to measure gene-expression in a circuit-specific manner based on neuroanatomical tracing in the rodent striatum.

Previous Research


Brain-basis of metabolic disturbances and obesity.
  • At Brookhaven National Laboratories, during consecutive summer internships under the supervision of Panayotis (Peter) K. Thanos, PhD, I investigated the relationship between gastric bypass and food-reward/-motivation using a rodent model and in vivo functional neuroimaging.
  • During a summer rotation at Mount Sinai, under the supervision of Charles V. Mobbs, PhD, I studied the role of the striatum in D2R-dependent glucose sensing and conditioned flavor preference.

Evolutionary function of yawning and stretching in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), commonly known as parakeets.
  • Under the supervision of Anne B. Clark, PhD, at Binghamton University, we characterized the pattern of yawning and stretching, confirming that when undisturbed, these two behaviors are strongly associated, as they are in humans and other mammals.
  • Working with Andrew C. Gallup, PhD, at the time a doctoral candidate at Binghamton University, we identified that yawning is a potential thermoregulatory behavior in these birds, insomuch that yawns decrease brain and/or body temperature when thermally stressed.