Lee Baugh, Ph.D.

Sweet Choices: The role of blood glucose levels on self-control and the neurological underpinnings of decision making

Previous behavioral research has demonstrated a link between blood glucose levels and self-control during value choices, such as choosing between an immediate small reward and a larger reward that you have to wait for. The present research project will provide students with the opportunity to contribute to a study examining the neurological correlates of decision making using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The information gained from this research may offer novel intervention and treatment regimens for impulsive behaviors associated with drug and gambling addiction and provide further information as to the brain systems involved in short-term, reward seeking, compulsions.

Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences (Vermillion)
Email: Lee.Baugh@usd.edu

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Kathleen Brown-Rice, Ph.D.

Generational Issues in Trauma and Substance Use

Two of my main research areas include: a) Native American mental health with emphasis on the implications of historical/generational trauma, and b) the impact of substance use on individuals, families, and the community. I am currently investigating several projects related to generational issues related to mental health and substance use. I have ongoing projects related to a) historical trauma and current psychological and neural functioning, b) binge drinking and self-esteem, and c) parental substance use and the impact on their adult children’s psychological, neural, and biological functioning.

Counselor Education Program (Vermillion)
Email: Kathleen.Rice@usd.edu

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Brian Burrell, Ph.D.

Cannabinoid Modulation: Synapses to Behavior

My lab studies the mechanisms by which endocannabinoids (endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitters) alter synaptic signaling as well as the functional/behavioral effects of this neuromodulation. The current focus is on the ability of endocannabinoids to alter nociception (the perception of pain), but these studies also have relevance to other behavioral processes such as learning and memory.

Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences (Vermillion)
Email: Brian.Burrell@usd.edu

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Gina Forster, Ph.D.

Neurobiology Underlying Anxiety and Addiction

Undergraduate students working in the Forster Laboratory will be working one of two types of projects:
1) using an animal model of amphetamine withdrawal to study the neurobiological mechanisms by which withdrawal result in increased anxiety, so that we can use that information to develop news treatments to reverse anxiety during withdrawal and thus prevent drug-relapse and 2) studying the impact of alcohol on neural function and behavioral outcomes in veterans with and without PTSD to further our understanding of the effects of alcohol abuse in individuals suffering from anxiety disorders.

Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences (Vermillion)
Email: gforster@usd.edu

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Raluca Gaher, Ph.D.

Comorbid Psychopathologies and Substance Use Disorders

Our primary focus has been the study of traumatic stress and substance use. Specifically, our lab examines research questions regarding the etiology and maintenance of substance use and problems in the context of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research involving undergraduate students would include conducting a series of NIH-funded or DoD-funded research projects using assessment tools to understand the underlying bases of comorbid psychopathology and substance use.

Department of Psychology (Vermillion)
Email: raluca.gaher@usd.edu

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Gabrielle Strouse, PhD

Supporting young children’s educational experiences with media and technology

I am interested in how to make children’s experiences with media optimally educational.   I am developing studies that address:  1) How does learning from virtual experiences in touchscreen apps compare to hands-on learning?  2) How do children learn differently from traditional children’s books versus new touchscreen apps?, and 3) How does the way parents naturally talk to children during storybook reading compare to the way they talk to them during video watching or app use?

Human Development and Educational Psychology (Vermillion)
Email:  Gabrielle.Strouse@usd.edu

William J. Jones, Ph.D.

Consumers’ Neurocognition: Brain, Behavior, and Policy

My students and I study the neural basis of consumers’ decision making with particular emphasis on preferences, emotions, and social policy issues. Other topics of interest include consumers’ individual differences in sensory characteristics such as touch and visual versus verbal representations. Methodological approaches used range from fMRI/ERP to CFA/SEM, experiments, and legal analysis.

Many of the broad theoretical issues discussed above converge on addiction and/or addiction-related mental health issues. Addictive behaviors such as drug, alcohol, and/or gambling addictions have a consumption basis and, therefore, fall within the domain of marketing and its emphasis on exchange-related behavior. Addiction is also frequently comorbid with or causally related to mental health issues such as anxiety. I am currently investigating several projects related to anxiety. I have ongoing projects that consider emotional self-regulation and food choices. Obsessive consumption in consumer contexts is also of interest, and I would welcome working on a project on this topic.

Marketing Department (Vermillion)
Email: william.jones@usd.edu

John Korkow, Ph.D, LAC

The Reasoning Behind LGBTQ Methamphetamine Use

The purpose of this research is to explore both qualitatively and quantitatively why those in the LGBTQ population may have a higher vulnerability to methamphetamine addiction. Past studies have indicated a correlation between a person's status as LGBTQ and the abusive use of substances, methamphetamines in particular. This study will study this correlation at a deeper level, and seek explanations for this correlation.

Addiction Studies, Health Affairs (Vermillion)
Email: John.Korkow@usd.edu

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Lisa McFadden, Ph.D.

Role of the Frontal Cortex in Methamphetamine-Seeking

Methamphetamine addiction is a serious world wide health problem for which no drug therapies are currently available. Understanding the changes in the brain that underlie addiction and relapse is an important step towards developing successful drug interventions. The current project will investigate the changes in the brain associated with methamphetamine-seeking.  Specifically, we will investigate the role of the neurotransmitters serotonin and glutamate in the frontal cortex during drug-seeking behaviors.  Understanding the role of these neurotransmitters in the frontal cortex during drug-seeking may allow for the development of targeted interventions for methamphetamine addiction.

Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences (Vermillion)
Email: Lisa.Mcfadden@usd.edu

David Pearce, Ph.D.

Neurobehavioral and pathological defects in a mouse model of Batten Disease

Our team’s research focuses on a family of autosomal recessive neurodegenerative diseases called Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses. These devastating diseases results in vision loss, decline in cognitive and motor function and progressive increased frequency of seizures before succumbing to premature death. Our lab utilizes multiple approaches to investigate the underlying pathological mechanisms of Batten disease including yeast genetics, neurobehavior, molecular biology and protein biochemistry. Summer scholars would investigate pathological and behavioral defects in a mutant mouse model of Juvenile Batten disease.

Sanford Research Center (Sioux Falls)
Email: david.pearce@sanfordhealth.org

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Kenneth Renner, Ph.D

Mechanisms modulating physiological and behavioral responses to stress

The physiological and behavioral responses to stress are important for survival. Regulation of the stress response is governed by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Organic cation transporters (OCTs) have been found in a number of brain regions associated with stress responses, and are involved in the regulation of serotonin (5-HT). We are interested in how OCT-mediated 5-HT transport effects fast negative feedback regulation of the HPA axis, as well as the mechanisms by which amphetamine withdrawal impacts the serotonergic system and anxiety behaviors.

Department of Biology (Vermillion)
Email: kenneth.renner@usd.edu

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Pat Ronan, Ph.D.

Neural Mechanisms and Treatment of Stress-Induced Psychiatric Disorders

We are interested in deciphering brain mechanisms that translate stress experience into maladaptive behavioral outcomes. We have particular interests in PTSD, addiction, anxiety and depression. Our focus is centered around the activity and interaction of major brain neurotransmitter systems.

Projects in which students could be involved include optogenetic control of specific brain systems in rodent models to determine their role and test proof of principle treatments in disorders such as excessive alcohol consumption in PTSD. Students will learn techniques including immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy, small animal stereotaxic surgery and animal behavior models.

Avera Research Institute (Sioux Falls)
Email: patrick.ronan@usd.edu

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Cliff Summers, Ph.D.

The Role of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression on Decision Making

The Laboratory of Molecular Neuropsychoecoendochemistry is currently focused stress-related neurocircuitries that modulate Anxiety and Depression. These circuits and behavioral states influence the process of decision making. This confluence of neural and behavioral pathways is critical for healthy adaptive responsiveness.

Department of Biology (Vermillion)
Email: Cliff@usd.edu

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Hongmin Wang, Ph.D.

Role of Ubiquilin-1 in Learning and Memory

Addiction is associated with aberrant learning and memory but the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Ubiquilin-1, a ubiquitin (Ub)-like protein, regulates protein degradation and may play a regulatory role in cognitive functions.

To better understand the function of ubiquilin-1, we have generated ubiquilin-1 transgenic and conditional knockout mouse models, and with the mice we will determine whether changes of ubiquilin-1 expression levels alter mouse learning and memory capability.

Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences (Vermillion)
Email: Hongmin.Wang@usd.edu

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XT Wang, Ph.D.

Embodied Decision Making

One of the research topics of the laboratory of Decision Making and Risk Perception is embodied decision making, which explores how bodily changes (e.g., glucose metabolism, circadian rhythm, hormonal states, somatosensation) interact with and affect risk perception, decision making, and self-control. In studying mind-body interplays, we take an interdisciplinary approach and adopt research methods involving behavioral testing, experimental manipulations, and neuroimaging

Department of Psychology (Vermillion)
Email: xtwang@usd.edu

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Michael Watt, Ph.D.

Adolescent social stress and susceptibility to drug abuse

Experience of social stress during adolescence, most often in the form of bullying, is associated with a higher incidence of pyschiatric disorders including drug abuse. My research uses a rat model to investigate how adolescent social stress disrupts dopamine transmission in the prefrontal cortex of the brain to increase behavioral responses to amphetamine, and whether these responses can be normalized by pharmacological treatments designed to restore cortical dopamine activity. Students have the opportunity to particpate in studies incorporating behavioral assessment, intracranial surgeries, drug administration, and neurotransmitter measurement, and will also be taught principles of experimental design and data analysis.

Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences (Vermillion)
Email: Mick.Watt@usd.edu

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Jill Weimer, Ph.D.

Navigating the Developing Brain: Disruption in neural progenitor proliferation, migration and differentiation that lead to neurodevelopmental disorders

Our team focuses on identifying novel signaling complexes that are essential for normal cortical development and exploring how disruption in these complexes can lead to neuropediatric disease. One specific project involves the discovery of a novel complex containing CRMP2, a protein involved in axonal outgrowth, CLN6, a protein of unknown function mutated in a rare lysosomal storage disorder, and KLC4, a kinesin motor protein. Our studies utilize neurobehavioral as well as molecular and biochemical approaches to better understand this protein complex and the associated neurological disorder (called Batten disease). Using a mouse model of Batten disease, we are currently screening a number of therapeutic compounds to determine whether specifically targeting this signaling complex can improve cognitive, motor and pathological defects in children with this disease.

Sanford Research Center (Sioux Falls)
Email: Jill.Weimer@sanfordhealth.org

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