Neuroscience and Reproductive Biology

Neuroscience and Reproductive Biology

Research in the areas of Advanced Reproductive Techniques and Population Control, Animal Models of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders, Postpartum Stress and the Microbiome, Neural Regulation of the Reproductive Axis, and Transgenerational Epigenetics

Animal Models of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders

Animal models of are frequently used to elucidate disease mechanisms and identify potential therapeutic targets. A large number of preclinical models of psychiatric disorders have been developed in rodents. Additionally, spontaneous clinical models of psychiatric disorders, such as separation anxiety and compulsive disorder, have been documented in dogs. With regard to neurological disorders, conditions such as stroke, can be induced in rodent models and are also observed clinically in companion animals. Information regarding genetic predisposition, sex-specificity, and age-related factors can also be assessed using these types of animal models. Learn more

  • Elizabeth McCone Byrnes

    Elizabeth McCone Byrnes
    Neuroscience

  • Nicholas H. Dodman

    Nicholas H. Dodman
    Emeritus

  • Benjamin C Nephew

    Benjamin C Nephew
    Maternal Behavior Disorders

Postpartum Stress and the Microbiome

Recent findings in mice and rats indicate that the gut microbiota can affect stress and anxiety.  It is well established that the reproductive states of pregnancy and lactation are accompanied by reductions both in endocrine responsiveness to stress and reductions in anxiety.  The goal of this research is to identify those bacteria and bacterial metabolites that alter the neural circuits involved with stress and anxiety as a function of reproductive state. The goal of these studies would be the identification of potential therapies that could be used to reduce anxiety during the postpartum period. This project is a collaboration with members of the Department of Infectious Disease and Global Health. Learn more.

  • Phyllis Mann

    Phyllis Mann
    Neuroendocrinology

Neurobiology of Maternal Behavior

Appropriate coordination of the reproductive axis is critical for species propagation. In mammals, reproductive processes and associated behaviors are regulated by the central nervous system. Neural signals are critical for synchronizing the release of hormones in response to developmental, experiential, and environmental factors. In addition, the brain controls the expression of behaviors necessary for mating and parenting. Dysregulation of the reproductive axis can have significant consequences for the individual, their offspring, and the species. Learn more.

  • Robert Bridges

    Robert Bridges
    Behavioral Neuroendocrinology

  • Elizabeth McCone Byrnes

    Elizabeth McCone Byrnes
    Neuroscience

  • Phyllis Mann

    Phyllis Mann
    Neuroendocrinology

  • Benjamin C Nephew

    Benjamin C Nephew
    Maternal Behavior Disorders

Transgenerational Epigenetics

Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance involves the transmission of traits from one generation to the next in the absence of underlying changes in primary DNA structure.  In this manner, the experience of the parent can induce genetic modifications in their future offspring and beyond. It has been hypothesized that such rapid inheritance may be adaptive as it essentially prepares future generations for environmental conditions as predicted by parental experience. The mechanisms underlying transgenerational epigenetic inheritance include processes that regulate gene expression, including DNA methylation and expression of small, non-coding RNAs. Our understanding of how these epigenetic modifications are transmitted from one generation to the next remains quite limited. Learn more.

  • Elizabeth McCone Byrnes

    Elizabeth McCone Byrnes
    Neuroscience

  • Benjamin C Nephew

    Benjamin C Nephew
    Maternal Behavior Disorders

Advanced Reproductive Techniques and Population Control

The regulation and control of reproduction in domestic and wild animals is a critical are of One Health, with outcomes impacting humans, animals and the environment. Optimizing methods and technologies that can improve reproductive outcomes and control population growth requires an in depth knowledge of species-specific reproductive physiology. Currently, advanced reproductive techniques (ART) research within the section includes studies investigating the regulation of the estrous cycle in small ruminants in an effort to better understand the hormonal physiology of superovulation and out of season breeding.  Previous studies have applied ART to the production of transgenic and cloned small ruminants. With regard to population control, recent work involves a project aimed at developing novel therapeutics for controlling populations of feral cats and dogs. In addition, two ongoing projects within the section are aimed at assessing and implementing population control of wild horses and white tailed deer. Learn more.

  • Sandra Ayres

    Sandra Ayres
    Goat Reproduction, Transgenics, Cloning, Theriogenology

  • Allen T Rutberg

    Allen T Rutberg
    Fertility Control for Wildlife, Urban Wildlife Conflict