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CBBRe Research Symposium 2016

The goal of this annual symposium is to bring researchers together from the fields of neural and behavioral sciences, providing a forum of collegial interaction and collaboration.

Presentations include talks from invited speakers and poster presentations from USD CBBRe students and faculty. Students who have recently completed the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction (SPURA) at USD will also  present their work at the poster session.

2016 Symposium External Speakers

Matthew Hill, Ph.D.

Department of Cell Biology, Anatomy, and Psychiatry

University of Calgary


Talk Title: “Endocannabinoids: Polymodal Regulators of the Stress Response

Matthew Hill, Ph.D., was trained in Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychoneuroendocrinology at the University of British Columbia and did postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Bruce McEwen, Ph.D., at the Rockefeller University. Hill’s research has helped to reveal the critical role, and neural circuits through which, endocannabinoid signaling regulates acute responsiveness and adaptation of the stress response, both at the neuroendocrine and behavioral level. Further, his research has demonstrated how chronic stress can compromise endocannabinoid function, identifying this system as target for both the pathophysiology and treatment of stress-related mood and anxiety disorders. Earlier this year, Hill was awarded the 2016 CAN Young Investigator Award at the 10th Annual Canadian Neuroscience Meeting.

View website:  http://mathison.ucalgary.ca/mhill

Mary Meagher, Ph.D.

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

Texas A & M University

Talk Title: “Adversity and Pain Sensitization: Translation from Animal to Human Studies

Mary Meagher, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Texas A&M University. She received her PhD in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Behavioral Neuroscience with a minor in Neurobiology. She subsequently completed postdoctoral training in Clinical Psychology at Texas A&M University followed by a clinical internship at the San Antonio VA. Her research focuses on the role of stress and emotion in health, with an emphasis on pain and inflammatory conditions. Meagher uses both animal and human laboratory models to examine how stress modulates pain sensitivity. Her recent human studies investigate the effects of adverse life events on pain sensitization and the mitigating effects of exposure interventions. Other work examines the effects of persistent pain on motivation and decision-making. Her recent animal work examines the role of neuroimmune priming in mediating the adverse effects of social stress in a model of multiple sclerosis. Meagher is a Fellow of the American Psychological Society and of the American Psychological Association in Divisions 6 (Behavioral Neuroscience) and 12 (Clinical Psychology) and the recipient of several university awards for research and service. Her laboratory has been funded by grants and fellowships from NIH, NSF, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

View website: http://psychology.tamu.edu/mary-meagher-professor/

Christopher Pittenger, M.D., Ph.D.

Department of Psychiatry

Yale School of Medicine

Talk Title: “Of Mice, Men, and Tics: Translational Studies of Tourette Syndrome

Dr. Pittenger is Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and in the Child Study Center at Yale University.  He received his BS and MS degrees in biochemistry from Yale University and his MD and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University.  His Ph.D. studies in neurobiology were performed with recent Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel.  He returned to Yale for residency training in adult psychiatry and joined the faculty in 2007.  He directs both the Yale OCD Research Clinic and a laboratory in the Division of Molecular Psychiatry.  His work, which encompasses both basic and clinical studies, focuses on normal functions of the basal ganglia and their perturbation in neuropsychiatric disease, especially obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and Tourette syndrome.  His work has been acknowledged by numerous awards, most recently the Killam Award for Translational Research from the American College of Neuropsycho-pharmacology.  He is a member of the Scientific Advisor Board of the International OCD Foundation and is active in numerous other organizations focused on biological psychiatry.  Dr. Pittenger lives outside New Haven, CT, with his wife, four children, three cats, eleven chickens, and a crayfish.

View website: http://psychiatry.yale.edu/people/christopher_pittenger.profile

George Rebec, Ph.D.

Department of Psychological and Brain Studies

Indiana University


Talk Title: “Dysfunctional Neural Communication in Huntington’s Disease:  From Vitamin C to Glutamate to Potential Treatment

George Rebec, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Boulder followed by postdoctoral research at the University of California San Diego.  He rose through the ranks at Indiana University to direct the Program in Neuroscience, one of the nation’s first interdisciplinary programs devoted to the study of nervous system function.  He currently directs the Program’s federally funded institutional training grant, which supports integrated predoctoral training in drug abuse research.  The Rebec lab broadly studies the role of the basal ganglia and their interactions with cortical and subcortical structures to influence cognition, motivation, and motor control in health and disease.  The lab has identified key relationships between ascorbate, an antioxidant vitamin, and the regulation of extracellular glutamate, an excitatory amino acid transmitter.  Abnormalities in glutamate regulation have been implicated in drug and alcohol craving and in the dysfunctional patterns of cortico-basal ganglia communication that trigger the onset of Huntington’s disease, a dominantly inherited and fatal neurodegenerative condition that strikes in the prime of life.  The Rebec lab is supported by funds from NIH and CHDI.

View website: http://psych.indiana.edu/faculty/rebec.php


 2016 Symposium Internal Speakers

Brian Burrell, Ph.D.

Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences

University of South Dakota


Talk Title: “A Double-Edged Sword: Pro- and Anti-Nociceptive Effects of Endocannabinoids

Brian Burrell, Ph.D., focuses his research on how changes at the cellular/synaptic level produce changes in behavior.  Most recently, his lab has focused on synaptic plasticity mediated by endocannabinoids and how these transmitters are capable of reducing nociceptive signaling, but increasing non-nociceptive signaling.  These experiments are carried out using Hirudoverbana (the medicinal leech) as a model system, taking advantage Hirudo’s well-described “simple” central nervous system that facilitates recording from identifiable synapses.  Burrell's research has been funded by National Science Foundation.  He is currently the co-Director of the NIDA-funded Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction and the Associate Director of the Center for Brain and Behavior Research.

Katie Grausam

Graduate Student, Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences

University of South Dakota and Sanford Research Center


Title: “Targeted Therapy for Leptomeningeal Metastasis of Medulloblastoma”

Katie Grausam is entering her third year as a graduate student in the Basic Biomedical Sciences program at the University of South Dakota, completing her research studies at Sanford Research under the mentorship of Dr. Haotian Zhao. She earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Human Biology and Psychology from Michigan State University in 2004, followed by Master of Science degrees in Neuroscience and Science Education in 2009 and 2010, respectively, both from Florida State University. In 2011, Katie joined the Zhao Lab at Sanford Research as a research associate, helping to develop several transgenic mouse models of pediatric brain tumors. Her work with a model of a choroid plexus tumor was recently accepted into Nature Cell Biology, while the work she is presenting today on medulloblastoma, which received a Young Investigator Award for Basic/Translational Research at the 2014 Society for Neuro-Oncology meeting, is currently in submission for publication.

Elise Hocking

Graduate Student, Department of Psychology

University of South Dakota


Title: "Adult attachment and drinking context as predictors of alcohol problems and relationship satisfaction"

 Elise Hocking is a fourth-year student in the Clinical Psychology Training Program at the University of South Dakota, working under the mentorship of Dr. Raluca Simons. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Addiction Counseling from Jamestown College in 2009, and recently earned a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of South Dakota. Her research focuses on how interpersonal constructs, such as attachment style, relate to substance abuse problems and various forms of interpersonal trauma. Her work regarding child maltreatment, attachment anxiety, and the occurrence of betrayal trauma in adulthood was recently published in Child Abuse & Neglect.

Sara E Lowmaster, Ph.D.

Department of Psychology

University of South Dakota


Title: “Examining the Role of Traumatic Stress in the Perception and Interpretations of Interpersonal Behavior

Sara Lowmaster is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Dakota. She received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Texas A&M University. She completed her predoctoral internship at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and postdoctoral fellowship at Boston University and the VA Boston Healthcare System. Her research focuses on psychological assessment and the role of personality and stress in maladaptive behaviors and relationships.

Gabrielle A Strouse

School of Counseling and Psychology in Education

University of South Dakota


Talk Title: “How Are Touchscreens Changing Children's Shared Reading Experiences?”

Gabrielle Strouse, Ph.D, is primarily interested in research which focuses on young children’s learning from media.  She received her PhD in Psychology at Vanderbilt University in 2011, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto before joining the faculty at USD in 2015.  Her focus is on determining why and when young children struggle to learn from different types of media (e.g., books, videos, apps) and identifying methods for supporting children’s learning.  One component includes encouraging high-quality interactions between children and adults during co-use; another includes providing children with experiences that support them in transferring information from the media context to real-world situations. Strouse's research is currently supported by a grant from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

XT (Xiao-Tian) Wang, Ph.D.

Department of Psychology

University of South Dakota


Talk Title: “Embodied Decision-Making: Metabolic and Neurological Signaling Effects of Blood Glucose on Delay Discounting and Impulsivity

X.T. (Xiao-Tian) Wang, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at the University of South Dakota whose interdisciplinary research bridge behavioral decision making, risk management, evolutionary psychology, and neuroscience. He was visiting or adjunct professor at Peking University, Max Planck Institute in Germany, CEIBS China-Europe International Business School, Singapore Management University, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is the co-editor of the book “Thus Spake Evolutionary Psychologists” (2011, Peking University Press) and the co-author of the book (in Chinese) “The Wisdom of Evolution and Rationalities of Decision Making (2016, East China Normal University Press).  He has published papers in 25 different peer reviewed journals and provided services for 52 professional journals. His research was sponsored by NSF, James McDonnell Foundation and KC Wang Foundation. His studies are cited in multiple textbooks and covered by popular media such as Time magazine, Wall Street Journal, Science News, Yahoo News et al.