Current Pilot Projects

Establishing a role for Arc as a molecular mechanism of sex differences in anxiety-like behavior

Rachel Penrod-Martin, Ph.D.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mood disorders, and are experienced by females at higher rates than males.  While there are many pre-clinical studies of anxiety, few of them focus on the underlying neurobiology that may drive sex differences in anxiety. The SCORE pilot project grant supports Dr. Penrod-Martin's experiments to characterize sex-specific patterns of brain activation produced by anxiety experience, a key step in understanding if there are sex-differences in how the brain processes and responds to anxiety. These findings will help focus attention to the brain regions most likely to be driving anxiety in the two sexes. Another aspect of this project is to understand how sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone) influence anxiety behavior, brain activation, and the expression of proteins in the brain that serve as the connection between brain activity and behavior. These findings will help determine if there are sex-specific mechanisms regulating anxiety and help target those mechanisms to improve anxiety symptoms.

T-cell regulation of cardiac physiology and cognitive decline in women

Kristine DeLeon-Pennell, Ph.D.

Post-menopausal women have a two-times higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to pre-menopausal women. For women who have a heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI), there is a twofold higher chance of decline in cognitive function. The goal of this SCORE pilot project is to understand how hormonal regulation of CD8 T-cells regulate the wound healing response after MI and can promote impaired cognitive decline. The central hypothesis is that CD8 T-cells are direct and indirect regulators of cognitive decline after MI through hormonal mechanisms. This is the first proposal to integrate multidisciplinary approaches to evaluate hormonal regulation of CD8 T-cells in the MI setting, and will add to the understanding of critical mechanisms underlying adverse effects of the adaptive immune response in cognitive function after MI.