Lee Baugh, Ph.D.

Neural Correlates of Decision Making

Research within the Baugh Lab has previously examined the process of decision making utilizing a wide-range of behavioral and neuroimaging approaches including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) in human participants. A number of opportunities to examine how the brain makes decisions, as well as to look at the sorts of information that is utilized to do so, is available for an eager and ambitious summer student. 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

Learn More


Chris Berghoff, Ph.D.

Mindfulness, Acceptance and Substance Use in Daily Life

My research interests are twofold:

  • To gain a better understanding of the events that occur in everyday life that precipitate substance use, the consequences that maintain such behavior and psychological factors that make one more susceptible to misuse
  • Evaluating the usefulness of mindfulness and acceptance based behavioral treatments for co-occuring substance use and anxiety and trauma-related disorders

Research projects will likely involve self-report ecological momentary assessment and physiological data collected with wearable devices such as the Apple Watch.

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


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

Learn More


John Korkow, Ph.D., LAC

The Reasoning Behind LGBTQ Methamphetamine Use

Research interests include: methamphetamine use disorder, opioid use disorder, impulse control disorders, diverse issues in substance use disorders, substance use disorders in college populations.

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

Learn More


Sara Lowmaster, Ph.D.

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


William Mayhan, Ph.D.

Neurovascular-mediated effects of alcohol on behavior

In utero exposure to alcohol remains a leading cause of cognitive, memory and behavioral abnormalities that persist into adulthood. The link between in utero exposure to alcohol and cognitive/memory/behavior dysfunction may relate to the effects of alcohol on the coupling of cerebral blood flow to metabolic demand (neurovascular coupling), which is governed by reactivity of cerebral resistance arterioles. The goal of our studies is to define the consequences of in utero exposure to alcohol on reactivity of cerebral arterioles and the susceptibility of the brain to ischemia-induced brain damage, and to then relate these findings to cognitive/memory/behavior dysfunction produced by in utero exposure to alcohol.

Basic Biomedical Sciences
Email: william.mayhan@usd.edu


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


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

Learn More


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.

Sioux Falls VA Healthcare System
Email: patrick.ronan@usd.edu

Learn More


Samuel Sathyanesan, Ph.D.

Molecular Neuropsychiatry Laboratory

The Sathyanesan Laboratory focuses on understanding the role played by multifuctional trophic factors in the central nervous system. These molecules act on multiple cell types in the brain. Research focuses on four areas: gene expression, cell signaling, structural biology and behavior.

Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences
Email: Samuel.Sathyanesan@usd.edu

Learn More


Jewel Shepherd, Ph.D.

ED Utilization for Substance Use, Abuse and Addiction

The Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS) is the largest all-payer emergency department (ED) database in the U.S. The dataset includes patient-level and hospital-level characteristics, principal and secondary payers for the ED services rendered, presence of chronic or non-chronic diseases, principal diagnosis and up to 30 secondary diagnoses all reported as ICD codes. This project will utilize the most current NEDS dataset to explore the factors associated with patient ED encounters specific to ICD codes related to substance use, abuse, addiction, relapse, and adverse reactions. The data will be used to lend to a discussion on the economic impacts associated with substance abuse.

The student will have an opportunity to work through all of the stages of a research project that utilizes secondary data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Data Use Agreement and Online Training; the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI); USD’s IRB approval process; formulation of research questions; descriptive and predictive data analysis; literature synthesis; and manuscript submission for consideration.

Beacom School of Business, Health Services Administration (Vermillion)
Email: Jewel.Shepherd@usd.edu


Raluca Simons, 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

Learn More


Gabrielle Strouse, Ph.D. 

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


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

Learn More


Hongmin Wang, Ph.D.

The Effect of Addiction on Developing Alzheimer's Disease

My laboratory is interested in studying why neurodegeneration occurs in some pathological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, and how we can protect neurons from death or dysfunctions under these conditions. One research direction related to the SPURA program is to investigate the effect of addiction on developing Alzheimer’s disease by using both neuronal cultures and animal models.

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

Learn More


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

Learn More


Hyung Suk Yang

Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment in reducing drug seeking in preclinical models. However, in clinical populations compliance with exercise treatment programs is sometimes problematic. In some cases impairments in mobility may hider exercise treatment. My research interests include investigating factors that alter or impede various aspects of gait such as walking, running and landing, especially as related to clinical applications and health disparities. Research projects will likely involve biomechanical tools such as motion capture, electromyography, and force measurement. My primary research efforts are currently focused on the effects of arm swing on walking.

Division of Kinesiology and Sport Management (Vermillion)
Email: hs.yang@usd.edu