Robinson's Lab Team

Principal Investigator

Photo of Catrina Robinson

Dr. Catrina Robinson

The research in my laboratory focuses on understanding the role of metabolic disorders (such as prediabetes, diabetes, and obesity) on brain health and aging. Our laboratory aims to understand the pathways involved in developing novel therapeutic targets to improve brain health. Currently, we are studying the impact of diet and obesity on memory function. We are also exploring mechanisms that link metabolic disorders to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, we are investigating the role of prediabetes on stroke recovery. One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is training and mentoring. I have experience training/mentoring high school students, undergraduate students, graduate students, medical students, and postdoctoral fellows.

Laboratory Manger

Janet Boggs, Laboratory Manager

Janet Boggs, Laboratory Manager

I am the laboratory manager. I have been a part of the Robinson’s lab since 2014. Outside of the lab, I like to play with my dog, Parker and Tharin.

Post-doctoral Fellows

Serena-Kaye Sims, Ph.D 

Serena-Kaye Sims, Ph.D.

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Robinson’s Laboratory. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the College of Charleston and my Ph.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina in Neuroscience. My current studies focus on utilizing intranasal treatment of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic factor (BDNF) to improve functional recovery in a neonatal model of hypoxic injury. I enjoy teaching. Currently, I am an Adjunct Professor in the Psychology Department at the College of Charleston.

Brynna Wilken-Resman, Ph.D. 

Brynna Wilken-Resman, Ph.D.

I joined the Robinson lab in 2020 as a postdoc after receiving a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My current research focuses on investigating mechanisms to ameliorate the impaired insulin signaling and reduced insulin levels in the brain that can occur in metabolic and cardiovascular disorders and lead to cerebrovascular and cognitive dysfunction. This involves pharmacologic and genetic manipulation of specific signaling nodes in preclinical models of these disorders to investigate the impacts on cerebrovasculature and insulin signaling at the blood-brain barrier, combining aspects of neuroanatomy, drug delivery, and molecular signaling. Outside of the lab I enjoy playing with my two dogs and cooking.

Graduate Students

Stephanie DiLucia 

Stephanie DiLucia

I am a fourth year MD/PhD (MSTP) student who joined the Robinson Team as a graduate student in August 2020. I am working under the guidance of both Dr. Robinson and Dr. del Monte on a collaborative project investigating the mechanistic links between cardiovascular health and Alzheimer's disease. More specifically, my work focuses on the protein aggregate-dependent and -independent effects on brain and heart function. My clinical interests parallel this research, as I aim to serve patients afflicted with neurodegenerative and protein misfolding disease in the future. I also love teaching and working with students in the lab! Outside of lab, I enjoy spending time with friends and family, hanging with my dog Opie, gardening, and eating at all the great restaurants that Charleston has to offer.

Crystal Smith

I am currently a Graduate student in the Neurology Department in the Neuroscience Program, I’m currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience. I am a former IMSD scholar and have been a part of the Robinson Team since Feb 2019. My research primarily focuses on the interaction between cognitive impairment and metabolic disorders. Brian insulin promotes neuroplasticity, synaptogenesis, has anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, vasodilatory, anti-apoptotic properties, and is involved in cognition. The benefits of brain insulin give way to numerous research avenues that have the potential to improve cognitive impairment after stroke. The Robinson Lab aims to investigate the therapeutic impact of intranasal insulin which has shown promise in decreasing cognitive deficits. Not much is known about insulin transport across the Blood Brain Barrier. My role in the lab is to explore insulin transport and the involvement of the insulin receptor, as well as investigating the role insulin has on improving cognitive impairment following stroke. When I’m not in the lab I like to work out, attend events going on around Charleston with friends, and binge Netflix.

Serena-Kaye Sims, Ph.D 

Melanie Wiley

Melanie is a MD/PhD neuroscience graduate student and joined the Robinson Lab in 2021. She is interested in applying neuromodulation techniques to treat neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition to Dr. Robinson, she is co-mentored by Drs. Mark George and Dr. Dorothea Jenkins. Her dissertation work is investigating the effect of non-invasive transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation on hypoxic-Ischemic injury in newborn rats. Dr. George directs the clinical Brain Stimulation Lab and Dr. Jenkins is a neonatologist who has conducted clinical and preclinical neuroprotective intervention trials in neonatal brain injury. Outside of lab Melanie enjoys, growing succulent plants, doing DIY projects, being an autism advocate, and playing with her dog Axon Hillock

Alexus Williams

I am currently a graduate student in the lab seeking a Masters of Biomedical Sciences. I have been a part of the Robinson Team since the summer of 2017 as a fellow in the summer undergraduate research program (SURP). My current research is on the impact of restoring insulin receptor endocytosis on brain insulin transport and cognitive impairment. Outside of the lab I spend time playing with my puppy, Cooper-Alexander, watching Netflix, and staying safe from COVID.

Undergraduate Students

Rachel Kaup 

Rachel Kaup

I am currently a Sophomore at the College of Charleston, majoring in Psychology (B.S.) and minoring in International Studies. I started my research experience at Furman University in 2019, working with Dr. Kerstin Blomquist on two research studies looking at how to diminish disordered eating behavior and internalization of societies beauty standards. I am currently working with Md/PhD student Melanie Wiley in Dr. Robinson's lab. We are working on a preclinical study looking at how to diminish the side effects of HIE through vagus nerve stimulation in neonatal rats. I hope to get my PhD after undergrad and teach psychology at a university in the future.

Lilly McGonegal 

Lilly McGonegal

I am an undergraduate student at the College of Charleston Honors College pursuing a major in Biology with a minor in neuroscience on the Pre-PA track. I began working in the Robinson’s lab in January of 2021 and have thoroughly enjoyed my time thus far. My career goal is to become a Pediatric Neurology Physician Assistant and I hope to directly apply what I have learned in the lab to my specialty. Outside of the lab, I am involved on campus as the founding president of College of Charleston CHAARG, a wellness and fitness organization aimed at fostering healthy relationships with fitness and community. I am also a member of the Charleston Fellows Program, which is the College of Charleston Honors College scholarship cohort. Additionally, I serve as the student manager for the Division One Volleyball program at The College and work as a Medical Assistant at a local pediatric private practice. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to investigate the effects of intranasal BDNF administration on neonatal stroke with Dr. Sims.

Madelynne L. Saddow 

Madelynne L. Saddow

Madelynne is an undergraduate research assistant in the Robinson’s lab who works alongside Dr. Sims and a student at the College of Charleston. Madelynne’s career goals are to attend medical school to get her MD and PhD in neurosurgery. Outside of the lab she is involved with the College of Charleston Red Cross Club, she fundraises for the Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, she is a mentor for the REACH program at the College, and she is a facilitator for freshman. She has been working in the Robinson’s lab since January 2021. In the lab she is assisting in evaluating BDNF polymorphism in a clinical study known as the Wide Spectrum Investigation of Stroke Outcome Disparities on Multiple levels. This study will provide more information about the role of race on functional recovery after stroke and the impact of the Val66Met BDNF polymorphism has on both BDNF levels and recovery within these racial groups. She will take the valuable information and skills that are learned within the lab throughout her future career.


Recent Past Team Members of the Robinson’s Laboratory

Kevin Boyd: Kevin initially joined the Robinson’s laboratory to complete a thesis in high school. He spent the summer of 2021 in the lab as an Undergraduate Student. Kevin is currently an undergraduate student at Duke University.

Taylor Lowry: Taylor initially joined the Robinson’s laboratory as an undergraduate student. She has been a Research Assistant in the Robinson’s laboratory for the past 2 years. She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in Public Health at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Guadalupe Sanchez: Guadalupe initially joined the Robinson’s laboratory as an Undergraduate Student. She also served as a Research Assistant in the laboratory prior to becoming a fellow for the post-baccalaureate research education program (PREP). She is currently a graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Mayo Clinic.

Tyler Stone: Tyler initially joined the Robinson’s laboratory as an Undergraduate Student. He recently completed his honor’s Bachelor’s essay in the laboratory. Tyler is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science degree in Public Health at Northwestern University.

Luke Watson, Ph.D.: Luke graduated with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences with a specialization in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology. After graduating Luke started a postdoctoral fellowship at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Currently, Luke is a Scientist 1 in Neuroscience/ in vivo CNS Biology at Intra-Cellular Therapies, a biopharmaceutical company.

Current Funding

1R01NS099595-01A1 (C. Robinson) 12/01/2017-11/30/2022
Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Obesity-related Memory Deficits
The major goal of this project is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying central nervous system insulin transport.

P20, COBRE (S. Kautz) 04/01/2019-09/30/2021
NIH/NIGMS P20 GM109040
South Carolina Research Center for Recovery from Stroke
Junior Investigator Project entitled: Effect of Insulin on Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Rehabilitation
The major goal of this study is to examine the therapeutic impact of intranasal insulin on recovery in a co-morbid mouse model of ischemic stroke.

*Merit, Veterans Affairs (C. Robinson) 04/01/2022-03/31/2026
Targeting brain insulin to improve stroke-related vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia
The major goal of this study is to examine the therapeutic impact of targeting brain insulin for the treatment of vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID).

*R01, NIH (C. Robinson) 04/01/2022-03/31/2027
Molecular mechanisms underlying vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia
The major goal of this study is to examine the mechanisms underlying vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID) and the therapeutic impact of targeting brain insulin on VCID.


ǂUndergraduate, #Graduate, *Medical, and §Post-doctoral student

  1. *Hammond MS, *Sims C, Parameshwaran K, Suppiramaniam V, Schachner M, Dityatev A. Neural cell adhesion molecule-associated polysialic acid inhibits NR2B-containing Nmethyl-
    D-aspartate receptors and prevents glutamate-induced cell death. J Biol Chem. 2006 Nov 17;281(46):34859-69. PubMed PMID: 16987814. *Co-first author.
  2. Parameshwaran K, Sims C, Kanju P, Vaithianathan T, Shonesy BC, Dhanasekaran M, Bahr BA, Suppiramaniam V. Amyloid beta-peptide Abeta(1-42) but not Abeta(1-40) attenuates synaptic AMPA receptor function. Synapse. 2007 Jun;61(6):367-74. PubMed PMID: 17372971.
  3. Kanju PM, Parameshwaran K, Vaithianathan T, Sims CM, Huggins K, Bendiske J, Ryzhikov S, Bahr BA, Suppiramaniam V. Lysosomal dysfunction produces distinct alterations in synaptic alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazolepropionic acid and Nmethyl-D-aspartate receptor currents in hippocampus. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2007 Sep;66(9):779-88. PubMed PMID: 17805008.
  4. Kanju PM, Parameshwaran K, Sims C, Bahr BA, Shonesy BC, Suppiramaniam V. Ampakine CX516 ameliorates functional deficits in AMPA receptors in a hippocampal slice model of protein accumulation. Exp Neurol. 2008 Nov;214(1):55-61. PubMed PMID: 18687330.
  5. Kochlamazashvili G, Senkov O, Grebenyuk S, Robinson C, Xiao MF, Stummeyer K, Gerardy-Schahn R, Engel AK, Feig L, Semyanov A, Suppiramaniam V, Schachner M, Dityatev A. Neural cell adhesion molecule-associated polysialic acid regulates synaptic plasticity and learning by restraining the signaling through GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors. J Neurosci. 2010 Mar 17;30(11):4171-83. PubMed PMID: 20237287; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5390116.
  6. Sims-Robinson C, Kim B, *Rosko A, Feldman EL. How does diabetes accelerate Alzheimer disease pathology?. Nat Rev Neurol. 2010 Oct;6(10):551-9. PubMed PMID: 20842183; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3199576.
  7. Oh SS, Hayes JM, Sims-Robinson C, Sullivan KA, Feldman EL. The effects of anesthesia on measures of nerve conduction velocity in male C57Bl6/J mice. Neurosci Lett. 2010 Oct 11;483(2):127-31. PubMed PMID: 20691755; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2941214.
  8. Larkin LM, Davis CS, Sims-Robinson C, Kostrominova TY, Van Remmen H, Richardson A, Feldman EL, Brooks SV. Skeletal muscle weakness due to deficiency of CuZn-superoxide dismutase is associated with loss of functional innervation. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2011 Nov;301(5):R1400-7. PubMed PMID: 21900648; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3213934.
  9. Kanju PM, Parameshwaran K, Sims-Robinson C, Uthayathas S, Josephson EM, Rajakumar N, Dhanasekaran M, Suppiramaniam V. Selective cholinergic depletion in medial septum leads to impaired long term potentiation and glutamatergic synaptic currents in the hippocampus. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31073. PubMed PMID: 22355337; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3280283.
  10. Sims-Robinson C, Zhao S, Hur J, Feldman EL. Central nervous system endoplasmic reticulum stress in a murine model of type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia. 2012 Aug;55(8):2276-84. PubMed PMID: 22581041; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3391332.
  11. Sims-Robinson C, Hur J, Hayes JM, ǂDauch JR, Keller PJ, Brooks SV, Feldman EL. The role of oxidative stress in nervous system aging. PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e68011. PubMed PMID: 23844146; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3699525.
  12. Sims-Robinson C, *Bakeman A, ǂGlasser R, Boggs J, Pacut C, Feldman EL. The role of endoplasmic reticulum stress in hippocampal insulin resistance. Exp Neurol. 2016 Mar;277:261-267. PubMed PMID: 26775176; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4802497.
  13. Sims-Robinson C, *Bakeman A, *Rosko A, ǂGlasser R, Feldman EL. The Role of Oxidized Cholesterol in Diabetes-Induced Lysosomal Dysfunction in the Brain. Mol Neurobiol. 2016 May;53(4):2287-96. PubMed PMID: 25976368; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4644712.
  14. Sims-Robinson C, *Bakeman A, ǂBruno E, ǂJackson S, ǂGlasser R, Murphy GG, Feldman EL. Dietary Reversal Ameliorates Short- and Long-Term Memory Deficits Induced by High-fat Diet Early in Life. PLoS One. 2016;11(9):e0163883. PubMed PMID: 27676071; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5038939.
  15. Hinder LM, O'Brien PD, Hayes JM, Backus C, Solway AP, Sims-Robinson C, Feldman EL. Dietary reversal of neuropathy in a murine model of prediabetes and metabolic syndrome. Dis Model Mech. 2017 Jun 1;10(6):717-725. PubMed PMID: 28381495; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5483005.
  16. Clark DG, Boan AD, Sims-Robinson C, Adams RJ, Amella EJ, Benitez A, Lackland DT, Ovbiagele B. Differential Impact of Index Stroke on Dementia Risk in African-Americans Compared to Whites. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2018 Oct;27(10):2725-2730. PubMed PMID: 30076114; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7282732.
  17. §Buie JNJ, Hammad SM, Nietert PJ, Magwood G, Adams RJ, Bonilha L, Sims-Robinson C. Differences in plasma levels of long chain and very long chain ceramides between African Americans and whites: An observational study. PLoS One. 2019;14(5):e0216213. PubMed PMID: 31067249; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6505935.
  18. #Watson LS, Hamlett ED, ǂStone TD, Sims-Robinson C. Neuronally derived extracellular vesicles: an emerging tool for understanding Alzheimer's disease. Mol Neurodegener. 2019 Jun 10;14(1):22. PubMed PMID: 31182115; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6558712.
  19. §Buie JJ, #Watson LS, #Smith CJ, Sims-Robinson C. Obesity-related cognitive impairment: The role of endothelial dysfunction. Neurobiol Dis. 2019 Dec;132:104580. PubMed PMID: 31454547; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6834913.
  20. #Watson LS, ǂStone TD, *Williams D, ǂWilliams AS, Sims-Robinson C. High-Fat Diet Impairs Tactile Discrimination Memory in the Mouse. Behav Brain Res. 2020 Mar 16;382:112454. PubMed PMID: 31926214; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7129774.
  21. §Buie JNJ, Zhao Y, Burns S, Magwood G, Adams R, Sims-Robinson C, Lackland DT. Racial Disparities in Stroke Recovery Persistence in the Post-Acute Stroke Recovery Phase: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study. Ethn Dis. 2020 Spring;30(2):339-348. PubMed PMID: 32346280; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7186057.
  22. Lackland DT, Sims-Robinson C, §Buie JNJ, Voeks JH. Impact of COVID-19 on Clinical Research and Inclusion of Diverse Populations: A Perspective. Ethn Dis. 2020;30(3):429-432.
  23. ǂWilliams A, ǂLowry T, Sims-Robinson C. The development of a cognitive rehabilitation task for mice. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2020 Aug 9; PubMed PMID: 32784042.

Scholarly Books and Monographs

Sims-Robinson C, Kim B, Feldman E. Neurobiology of Brain Disorders. Zigmond MJ, Rowland LP, Coyle J, editors. London, UK: Academic Press of Elsevier; 2015. Chapter 13, Diabetes and Cognitive Dysfunction; p.189-201. 801p.


  • Crystal Smith is a Neuroscience Scholar for SFN
  • Congratulations to Stephanie DiLucia who was recently appointed as a 2021 TL1
  • Congratulations to Melanie Wiley who was recently appointed as a 2021 TL1 Awardee!