Welcome to Neural and Behavioral Sciences

Colin J. Barnstable, D. Phil. - Prof. and Chair., Neural & Behav. Sciences - Director Penn State Hershey Neuroscience Research Institute

Welcome to the Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine! At its formation on July 1, 2003, the department had 27 full time faculty members. Funded investigators in the department occupy more than 19,000 square feet of space, including 3,000 square feet of shared department space. These individuals have a broad range of scientific interests and work at the behavioral, systems, cellular, and molecular levels. Their research is aimed at understanding the basic properties of the nervous system as well as delineating the role of the nervous system in the maintenance of health and in the pathophysiology of various diseases such as, Hypertension, Drug Addiction, Autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Maple Syrup Urine Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Restless Legs Syndrome, Diabetic Retinopathy, and Stroke.

The following briefly summarizes the problems under study by department faculty, and the current methods in use:

Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience


Focal areas of research include programs to understand the physiological substrates of behaviors, and the involvement of neural mechanisms in visceral homeostasis.

 

  • Mechanisms of reinforcement
The gustatory system as a model of forebrain assessment of the hedonic value in afferent neural activity; analyses of centrifugal control of gustatory processing; dopaminergic regulation of feeding; and the interaction between homeostatic factors and gustatory sensitivity and coding.
Rewarding effects of drugs: the properties of and differences between natural and pharmacological rewards; the effects of anticipatory contrast effects on reward magnitude.

 

  • Sensory processing, conditioning and learning
Cross-correlational analysis of corticothalamic and corticostriatal interactions and the role of neostriatal neurons as coincidence detectors.
The encoding of temporal information, during classical fear conditioning, by individual neurons in the hippocampus and amygdala.
Mathematical and neurophysiological analysis of the role of medullary neuronal plasticity in calibration of cardiovascular reflexes.


Methods employed in these studies include behavioral assessment, electrophysiological techniques, neuroanatomical and neurochemical techniques, and mathematical modeling.



Cell and Molecular Neuroscience

Focal areas of research include programs to understand neural cell growth, development and responsiveness to in vivo and in vitro stimuli.

 

  • Cell cycle, cellular differentiation and survival
The role of trophic factors, such as insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) and a novel opioid growth factor in stem, glial and oligodendrocyte progenitor cell differentiation, cell cycle regulation and survival following in vivo and in vitro injury.
  • Nutrient supply and demand
Mechanisms regulating the uptake of iron, glucose and other nutrients across the blood-brain barrier into the cells of the CNS and their modulation in pathological situations.
  • CNS and retinal response to injury
Cellular responses to injury, gliosis, neuronal apoptosis, microglial/macrophage-mediated inflammation.
 

Methods employed in these studies include, transgenic mice, genomics and proteomics, confocal and electron microscopy, cell sorting, MRI and other image analysis techniques, and clinical and animal immunology and pathology.


Colin J. Barnstable, D. Phil.
Prof. and Chair., Neural & Behav. Sciences
Director Penn State Hershey Neuroscience Research Institute