Stress: Not always a bad thing...
The word "stress" conjures all kinds of negative feelings. Being "stressed out" is bad. Being under a lot of stress in work or at school is horrible. But, the stress response that is mounted by the brain and body is there to protect you, by allowing you to cope with unexpected challenges in the environment, and activate the appropriate responses.
In the lab, we are very interested in understanding how healthy stress responses promote resilience to negative effects from environmental challenges, and why disrupted stress responses might lead to increased vulnerability.
Primarily, we are interested in two main questions with regards to stress and stress hormones:
1) How does disrupting the normal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response to stress affect neural and behavioral responses to both acute and repeated stressors? What are the health implications of inappropriate responses to stress?
2) What are the metabolic consequences of chronically high levels of cortisol/corticosterone, and are there long term implications for exposure to high levels of stress hormones early in development?
We use a combination of approaches, including in vivo biosensor measures of brain activity and electroencephalographic recordings of brain activity during the sleep-wake cycle. We also make use of a host of ex vivo approaches, including gene expression, immunohistochemistry, and slice electrophysiology.