Neuroscience at The University of Chicago

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Stephanie Dulawa, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Research Interests
  • Cellular & Molecular
  • Neurobiology of Disease
  • Systems / Behavior / Cognitive
The goal of my lab is to understand how mood is regulated. Specifically, we aim to identify the molecular mechanisms and neural circuits that modulate anxiety and depression using mouse models. We are pursuing this goal by studying the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the antidepressant response. Although antidepressant treatment increases synaptic monoamines within minutes to hours, the therapeutic effects of current antidepressants require chronic administration (weeks) to emerge. Progressive neuroplastic changes that develop during chronic antidepressant treatment are thought to mediate the delayed therapeutic effects of antidepressants, although the mechanisms underlying this effect have not been determined. One substantial barrier to elucidating the mechanisms underlying the antidepressant response has been a lack of animal models that are sensitive to the chronic effects of antidepressants. Our lab has developed several novel animal models in which mice exhibit behavioral responses that emerge during chronic, but not short-term, antidepressant treatment. To dissect the mechanisms underlying the antidepressant effect, we use a combination of behavioral, molecular, genetic engineering (including tTA/tetO inducible gene expression systems), and pharmacological techniques. We have recently developed a mouse model for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)-like behavior and are studying the neural mechanisms underlying OCD-like behaviors and their reversal by chronic treatment with serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Other projects include identifying novel putative fast-acting antidepressants, and identifying epigenetic influences on depression-related behavior.

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1. L Velez, G Sokoloff, KA Miczek, AA Palmer, SC Dulawa. Differences in aggressive behavior and DNA copy number variants between BALB/cJ and BALB/cByJ substrains. Behav Genetics 40:201-10, 2010. 2. AA Palmer, SC Dulawa. Murine Warriors or Worriers: the Saga of Comt1, B2 SINE Elements and the Future of Translational Genetics. Frontiers in Neurosci 4:177, 2010. 3. NA Shanahan, KA Holick, VL Masten, C Waeber, M Ansorge, JA Gingrich, MA Geyer, R Hen, SC Dulawa. Chronic reductions in serotonin transporter function prevent 5-HT1B-induced behavioral effects in mice. Biol Psychiatry 65:401-8, 2009. 4. SC Dulawa. Depression: known knowns, known unknows, and unknown unknowns. Frontiers in Neurosci, 3:230, 2009. 5. SJ Klenotich, SC Dulawa. The Activity-Based Anorexia Mouse Model. In: “Psychiatric Disorder: Protocols and Methods” (FH Kobeissy, ed) Springer Press, in press. 6. L Wang, HB Simpson, SC Dulawa. Assessing the validity of current mouse genetic models of obsessive compulsive disorder. Behav Pharmacology 20:119-33, 2009. 7. KA Holick, DC Lee, R Hen, SC Dulawa. Behavioral effects of chronic fluoxetine in BALB/cJ mice do not require adult hippocampal neurogenesis or the serotonin 1A receptor. Neuropsychopharmacol 33:406-417, 2008. (Faculty 1000 Biology) 8. SC Dulawa, R Hen. Recent developments in animal models of the antidepressant response: the novelty-Induced hypophagia test. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 29:771-783, 2005. 9. MT Englander, SC Dulawa, P Bhansali, C Schmauss. How stress and fluoxetine modulate serotonin 2C receptor pre-mRNA editing. J Neurosci 25:648-51, 2005. (Faculty 1000 Biology) 10. SC Dulawa, KA Holick, B Gundersen, R Hen. Effects of chronic fluoxetine in animal models of anxiety and depression. Neuropsychopharmacol 29:1321-30, 2004.