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Translating Duke Health Faculty Candidate Seminar

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Monday, February 17, 2020
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10:00 am - 11:00 am
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Jessica Walsh

Jessica Walsh, PhD, is visiting from Stanford University to give her talk "Neural mechanisms of social behavior."
Abstract: Social behavior is composed of a complex spectrum of distinct forms of interactions. While normal social interaction is a fundamental component to survival, impairments in appropriate sociability are key phenotypes underlying many psychiatric disorders. Neuromodulatory systems have been long implicated in controlling various aspects of social behavior. The first portion of my seminar will focus on dopaminergic (DA) circuits regulating deficits in social interaction due to stress, while the second portion will demonstrate how specific serotonergic (5-HT) circuits regulate intact social behavior, as well as social impairments in the 16p11.2 deletion mouse model of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). My work on the ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine system was among the first to show that the activity of specific DA projections regulates stress-induced behavioral impairments, particularly social avoidance. This work provides important evidence that the function of specific DA circuits is more complicated than simply signaling reward, as some can also drive aversive states. Furthermore, the development of social avoidance is dependent upon the upregulation of brain derived neurotrophic factor in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), which is driven by phasic firing of VTA-to-NAc DA neurons. My recent work demonstrates that 5-HT dorsal raphe neurons project