The Elizabeth Byrnes Lab

Research Publications Neuroscience


Transgenerational Effects of Experiences and Neuroplasticity

Our group focuses on several aspects of transgenerational effects with special attention to the way endocrine signals impact the nervous systems. We are pursuing two different areas.

Multigenerational Effects of Adolescent Opiate Exposure  

The nonmedical use of powerful prescription pain killers, such as Oxycontin®, is of growing concern, especially in adolescent populations. This project uses an animal model (rat) to examine the effects of opiate exposure during adolescent development on both the female and her future offspring. Specifically, this project examines how a history of drug use in the mother can alter the neurodevelopment of her offspring. The mechanisms involved in the transmission of effects from mother to offspring and the stability of these modifications across multiple generations is the primary focus of current studies. In particular, we are examining the role of modifications in the expression of both the proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and mu-opioid receptor genes during development in mediating these effects. These studies may serve as a model of epigenetic mechanism involved in the transfer of experiential information across multiple generations. This project is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

Effects of Reproductive Experience Across the Lifespan

The majority of women will give birth at some point during their lifetime. This experience induces profound changes in both neural and endocrine tissues, many of which are maintained after active parenting has subsided. This project uses an animal model (rat) to examine long-term changes in endocrine regulation of neural processes following reproductive experience. Our primary focus is on alterations in neural estrogen receptor function and the regulation of prolactin secretion. In addition, studies also examine the impact of reproductive experience on systems underlying the neural stress response. In particular, we are examining the effects of reproductive experience on corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) in select brain regions as a function of stress. The goal of these studies is to identify neural and endocrine mechanisms that may affect disease susceptibility, including the risk of mental illness, as a function of prior reproductive experience. This project is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 

Apply to the Sackler School


The priority application deadlines are as follows:

December 1: Basic Science Division PhD Programs

February 15: Building Diversity in Biomedical Sciences

March 31: Post-Baccalaureate Research Program

May 1: Clinical & Translational Science, MS in Pharmacology & Drug Development

June 15: Online Certificate in Fundamentals of Clinical Care Research