The research program in my laboratory focuses on the hormonal regulation of behavior. Our efforts are directed at understanding sex differences in the neural circuits underlying fear and anxiety. In particular, we are interested in how neurosteroids, steroid hormones synthesized in the brain, modulate affective behavior through interactions with neurotransmitter-gated ion channels such as glutamate and GABAA receptors. Several brain regions involved in emotional behavior, including the hippocampus, amygdala, and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, have been shown to be sensitive to neurosteroids and thus, may prove to be sexually dimorphic loci within relevant neural circuits. We are currently looking at the modulation of fear and anxiety in rats by allopregnanolone, a progesterone metabolite that enhances GABAergic transmission. To this end, we are applying molecular, biochemical, and behavioral techniques to our rodent model and are involved in active collaboration with established systems neuroscience labs.
Acca, G.M., Mathew, A.S., Jin, J., Maren, S., and Nagaya, N. (2017). Allopregnanolone induces state-dependent contextual fear via the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. Hormones and Behavior 7: 137-144.