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Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences
While most of the basic research examining mood disorders is primarily done with male subjects I look at stress, anxiety, and depression in male and female rodent models. Women are more likely to show anxiety and depression compared to men, as well as differences in the treatment efficacy of antidepressants, including the serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Overall, reduced activity of the brain serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) system has been implicated in major depression and suicide. The 5-HT1A auto receptor regulates serotonin release and levels, is dysregulated in mood disorders, and involved in treatment response.
During my MSc training, I studied how transcription factors and epigenetic mechanisms regulate the amount of 5-HT1A receptors in specific brain regions and the resultant effects on behaviour. Recently, the Viau lab has shown that male and female rodents utilize the 5-HT1A receptor system differently in response to stress. So I explore the role of the 5-HT1A receptor in the stress response and how stress reciprocally affects 5-HT1A receptor regulation by transcription factors and epigenetic mechanisms; of course considering how this differs in males and females. I use various techniques, including tract tracing, gene and pharmacological manipulation, molecular and cellular techniques, and behavioural analyses to answer these questions. Overall, this research will help us to better understand the 5-HT1A receptor basis for sex differences in the development of mood disorders associated with stress.