Annual Neurobehavioral Research Symposium

Aug. 16-17, 2016
Muenster University Center Ballroom, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, S.D.

Made possible through support from the Sanford School of Medicine, The Center for Brain and Behavior Research and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grant number R25-DA033674.

Registration for the 2016 Research Symposium has closed.
If you have not registered and are interested in attending the conference, please email:

The symposium and banquet are free of charge, but individuals must register to attend.

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.

All are welcome to attend the scientific and social sessions, and are encouraged to present research at the poster session held on August 16. Please indicate on the registration form if you would like to be considered for a poster presentation prize.

Presentations include talks from invited speakers and 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.

Symposium Program 

Tuesday, Aug. 16

Time Event
8:30 a.m. Registration, Light Breakfast & Poster Set-Up
9 a.m.
Welcome and Opening Remarks, Dr. Mary Nettleman, Dean of Sanford School of Medicine
9:15 a.m.
George Rebec (Indiana University): Dysfunctional Neural Communication in Huntington’s Disease: From Vitamin C to Glutamate to Potential Treatment
10:30 a.m.
10:45 a.m.
XT Wang (Human Factors Psychology, USD): Embodied Decision-Making: Metabolic and Neurological Signaling Effects of Blood Glucose on Delay Discounting and Impulsivity
11:15 a.m.
Gabrielle Strouse (Counseling and Psychology in Education, USD): How are Touchscreens Changing Children's Shared Reading Experiences?
11:45 a.m.
1 p.m.

Christopher Pittenger (Yale School of Medicine): Of Mice, Men and Tics: Translational Studies of Tourette Syndrome
2:15 p.m.
Katie Grausam (Graduate Student, Basic Biomedical Sciences, USD and Sanford Research): Targeted Therapy for Leptomeningeal Metastasis of Medulloblastoma
2:45 p.m.
3-5 p.m.
Poster Session & Awards
5:30 p.m.
Reception and Banquet Dinner** - RED Steakhouse

*Students signed up for lunch with an external speaker will find tables reserved for each group.

**There is no charge for dinner, but please pick up your banquet ticket at the registration desk.

Poster Session

  • The poster session will be held on the afternoon of Aug. 16.
  • Students at all levels, postdoc, staff and faculty are encouraged to present their research at the poster. Students/postdocs/staff should indicate on the registration form if they would like to be considered for a poster presentation prize.
  • Students who have recently completed the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction (SPURA) will be presenting their work at the poster session.
  • Posters should be no larger than 40" high and 60" wide. 

Wednesday, Aug. 17

8:30 a.m.
Light Breakfast
9 a.m.
Mary Meagher (Texas A&M University): Adversity and Pain Sensitization: Translation from Animal to Human Studies
10:15 a.m.
10:30 a.m.
Elise Hocking (Graduate Student, Clinical Psychology, USD): Adult Attachment and Drinking Context as Predictors of Alcohol Problems and Relationship Satisfaction
11 a.m.
Sara Lowmaster (Clinical Psychology, USD): Examining the Role of Traumatic Stress in the Perception and Interpretations of Interpersonal Behavior
11:30 a.m.
Lunch and Poster Viewing
12:45 p.m.
Matthew Hill (University of Calgary): Endocannabinoids: Polymodal Regulators of the Stress Response
2 p.m.
Brian Burrell (Basic Biomedical Sciences, USD): A Double-Edged Sword: Pro- and Anti-Nociceptive Effects of Endocannabinoids
2:30 p.m.
Concluding Remarks & Poster Take-Down

Invited External Speakers

Matthew HillMatthew Hill, Ph.D., Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy and Psychiatry, University of Calgary
Talk Title:“Endocannabinoids: Polymodal Regulators of the Stress Response”

Hill 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.

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Mary MeagherMary Meagher, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Texas A&M
Talk Title: “The Role of Adversity in Human Pain Sensitization”

Meagher is professor of psychology and neuroscience at Texas A&M University. She received her Ph.D. 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.  

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Christopher PittengerChristopher 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 M.D. 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.

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George Rebec

George Rebec, Ph.D., Department of Psychological and Brain Studies, Indiana University Bloomington
Talk Title: “Dysfunctional Neural Communication in Huntington’s Disease:  From Vitamin C to Glutamate to Potential Treatment”

Rebec 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.

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Internal Speakers

Brian BurrellBrian 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”

Burrell 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 Hirudo-verbana (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 National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded Summer Program for Undergraduate Research in Addiction and the associate director of the Center for Brain and Behavior Research.

Katie PicotteKatie Grausam, Graduate Student, Department of Basic Biomedical Science, University of South Dakota and Sanford Research Center
Title: “Targeted Therapy for Leptomeningeal Metastasis of Medulloblastoma”

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 HockingElise 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 Raluca Simons, Ph.D. 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 LowmasterSara 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”

Lowmaster is an assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of South Dakota. She received her Ph.D. 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 StrouseGabrielle A. Strouse, Ph.D., School of Counseling and Psychology in Education; University of South Dakota
Talk Title: “How Are Touchscreens Changing Children's Shared Reading Experiences?”

Strouse is primarily interested in research which focuses on young children’s learning from media. She received her Ph.D. 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 WangXT (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”

Wang is a professor of psychology at the University of South Dakota whose interdisciplinary research bridges 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 National Science Foundation, 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 and Yahoo News.

Opportunity for Students to Meet with Speakers

Undergraduate and graduate students and postdoc fellows who register for the symposium can choose to have lunch with one of the invited speakers August 16. Indicate your preference on the registration form. Lunch groups are limited in size so register early to secure a place.

Continuing Education Units (CEU)

Indicate on the registration form if you would like to earn a continuing education unit (1 unit = 10 hrs) while attending the symposium. Further details will be sent to you upon registration.

Directions and Parking

The symposium will be held in the Ballroom (second floor) of the Muenster University Center on the Vermillion campus of the University of South Dakota (building number 18 on the campus map).

Parking is available adjacent to the Muenster University Center (parking map).  Parking lots 2, 3 and 4 will be available to CBBRe attendees without a permit to park on the days of the symposium, but parking meters will be enforced as normal.