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Yerkes researchers present at 40th Annual Society for Neuroscience Conference

Neuroscience researchers from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, will present a wide range of research topics at the Society for Neuroscience's 40th annual meeting in San Diego, Nov. 13-17, 2010. The information below is a representation of the neuroscience research Yerkes scientists will be discussing. To learn more about ongoing research and scientific resources available at the Yerkes Research Center and the other seven national primate research centers, please visit exhibit booth 3817.

The Yerkes Research Center is sponsoring a Meet the Expert session on Brain, Behavior and Evolution featuring George Paxinos of Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute and The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. This session is Saturday, Nov. 13, 9 a.m. 10:30 a.m.

Larry Young, PhD, studies the genetic and neurobiological mechanisms underlying complex social behaviors, including social bonding and social attachments. Dr. Young is most well known for his research examining the mechanisms underlying pair bond formation in monogamous prairie voles. His studies have highlighted the roles of oxytocin and vasopressin in regulating social behavior. This work has important implications for psychiatric disorders characterized by disruption in social cognition, including autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.

  • Young will participate in a news conference, "Oxytocin: It's More Than the Love Hormone," Sunday, Nov. 14, at 9 a.m.
  • Young will give a special lecture titled "Neurobiology of Social Bonding and Monogamy: Implications for Autism Spectrum Disorders," Wednesday, Nov. 17, 8:30 a.m.- 9:40 a.m.
  • Young lab poster presentations Sunday, Nov. 14: Meera Modi, 11 a.m. noon; James Burkett, 2 p.m. 3 p.m.; Monday, Nov. 15: Catharine Barrett, 10 a.m. 11 a.m.; Kiyoshi Inoue PhD, 10 a.m. 11 a.m.; Alaine Keebaugh, PhD, 1 p.m. 2 p.m.


Leonard Howell, PhD, studies behavioral neuropharmacology with a focus on central nervous system stimulants and the development of medications to treat stimulant addiction. Dr. Howell's ongoing studies investigate nonhuman primate models of the neurochemical mechanisms that mediate drug effects on behavior. Recent efforts have focused on drug-induced changes in brain neurochemistry with in vivo microdialysis in behaving monkeys trained to self-administer cocaine.

  • Howell lab poster presentation: Kevin Murnane, PhD, Saturday, Nov. 13, 4 p.m. 5 p.m.

Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases

Stella Papa, PhD, studies the areas of pathophysiology and therapeutics of neurodegenerative disorders focusing on Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders.

  • Papa lab poster presentations: Jessica Whithear, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2 p.m. 3 p.m.; Subramaniam Uthayathas, PhD, Monday, Nov. 15, 1 p.m. 2 p.m.

Yoland Smith, PhD, studies the neurochemical changes that mediate cell death and abnormal motor behaviors in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and Huntington's chorea.

  • Smith lab poster presentation: Darlene Mitrano, PhD, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 4 p.m. 5 p.m.

Thomas Wichmann, MD, who collaborates with Smith, studies the pathophysiology of movement disorders, such as Parkinson's disease. His research focuses on evaluating the role of abnormal nerve cell activity in the basal ganglia in the development of Parkinsonian motor signs. The goal of his work is to gain a better understanding of the chemical and electrophysiologic changes that cause Parkinson's that can then be translated into new and more effective therapies.

  • Smith and Wichmann lab poster presentations: Yuxian Ma, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2 p.m. 3 p.m.; Gunasingh Jeyaraj, PhD; Monday, Nov. 15, 1 p.m. 2 p.m.; C. Glavis-Bloom, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1 p.m. 2 p.m.


Jocelyne Bachevalier, PhD, studies infantile amnesia, the inability to remember virtually anything from infancy. The primary goal of her research program is to determine the structural or functional immaturity responsible for infantile amnesia. Her lab also studies the nature of the memory decline in monkeys, which accompanies normal aging, to help explain aging-related memory disorders.

  • Bachevalier lab poster presentation: Maria Alvarado, PhD, Sunday, Nov. 14, 11 a.m. noon.

Elizabeth A. Buffalo, PhD, studies the neuronal mechanisms involved in the establishment and maintenance of memory. Through her research, she records neural activity in monkeys that have been trained to perform various types of memory tasks and investigates how changes in neuronal activity correlate with each monkey's ability to learn and remember in order to better understand how medial temporal lobe circuits support memory formation. Such understanding has the potential to make way for new therapies aimed at reducing or preventing memory loss that results from medial temporal lobe disease.

  • Buffalo lab poster presentations Monday, Nov. 15: Nathan J. Killian, 8 a.m. 9 a.m.; James Solyst, 8 a.m. 9 a.m.; Tuesday, Nov. 16: Eugene Agichtein, PhD, 2 p.m. 3 p.m.

Fear, Anxiety and Stress

Michael Davis, PhD, studies the physiological bases of learning and memory and brain areas involved in fear, anxiety and stress.

  • Davis lab poster presentation Tuesday, Nov. 16: Marina Wheeler, 9 a.m. 10 a.m.; Wednesday Nov. 17: Eric Heuer, PhD, 9 a.m. 10 a.m.; Ryan Parsons, PhD, 10 a.m. 11 a.m.; Andrew Kazama, 11 a.m. noon.

Donald Rainnie, PhD, aims to create a more thorough understanding of the cellular processes that contribute to the perception of emotion, which is often regarded as a psychological response rather than a physiological process. Rainnie and his research team focus on the cellular and neurophysiological mechanisms underlying emotional aspects of cognition, with emphasis on the role of the extended amygdala in fear conditioning and extinction, as well as emotional disorders such as anxiety, autism, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • Rainnie will participate in a nanosymposium titled "The Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis: Linking Stress, Addiction and Affect," Sunday, Nov. 14, 1 p.m. 3:45 p.m. Rainnie lab presentation: Chenchen Li, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2 p.m. 3 p.m.

Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, studies the biological mechanisms that cause fear. Ressler focuses on post traumatic stress disorder, a condition that causes chronic anxiety and traumatic flashbacks, and the genetic and neurobiological keys to preventing and treating the disease.

  • Ressler lab poster presentation Sunday, Nov. 14: Duke Geem, 4 p.m. 5 p.m.; Tuesday, Nov.16: Amy Mahan, 8 a.m. 9 a.m.; Georgette Gafford, PhD, 9 a.m. 10 a.m.; L. Mou, 9 a.m. 10 a.m.; Mallory Bowers, 10 a.m. 11 a.m.; Scott A. Heldt, 10 a.m. 11 a.m.; Dennis C. Choi, PhD, 11 a.m. noon; Wednesday, Nov. 17: Kelly Sink, PhD, 9 a.m. 10 a.m.; Karen E. Murray, 11 a.m. noon.

Human Nature and Evolution

William D. Hopkins, PhD, takes a multidisciplinary approach to studying human evolution, particularly the evolution of human language. Through the study of nonhuman primates, the Hopkins lab is increasing our understanding of the roles that behavior, laterality, neuroanatomy, cellular organization and cortical function may have played in the evolution of human language.

  • Hopkins lab poster presentation: Claudio Cantalupo, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1 p.m. 2 p.m.


Mark Wilson, PhD, studies how psychosocial factors affect behavioral, metabolic and reproductive health in females. Dr. Wilson investigates the biological signals that mediate the social subordination delay in puberty and how social subordination influences the behavioral efficacy of the hormone estradiol on regulating prosocial and emotional behavior in adult female rhesus monkeys. Another focus of the Wilson lab is the development of a program to study psychosocial influences of appetite and food preference.

  • Wilson lab presentations Monday, Nov. 15: Molly Embree, PhD, 3 p.m. 4 p.m.; Brittany Howell, 4 p.m. 5 p.m.


Xiaodong Zhang, PhD, is assistant director of the Yerkes Imaging Center. His research is focused on the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) techniques for research with nonhuman primates and rodents.

  • Zhang will present a poster Wednesday, Nov. 17, 8 a.m. 9 a.m.

  • Graduate student Eric Hecht will present a poster on imaging Monday, Nov. 15, 2 p.m. 3 p.m. Hecht works in the labs of Todd Preuss, PhD, and Jim Rilling, PhD.


Contact: Emily Rios
Emory University

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