Dr. John Christianson is a F32-funded research associate with extensive knowledge the neural mechanisms underlying resilience and vulnerability to anxiety and fear behavior. Past research has identified that psychological variables, including behavioral control over stress and safety signals during stress lead to a resilience from stress-induced anxiety. Furthermore, he has identified causal roles for the medial prefrontal cortex and insular cortex, respectively, in these stress-mitigating effects. His immediate goal is to advance his academic and technical skills in order to enact an independent research program studying the neural basis of safety learning and fear inhibition by safety. The K99/R00 proposal is a key component in this pursuit. Career Development Plan: Dr. Christianson
Public Health Relevance
Learning the difference between danger and safety is critical to survival, yet in some psychiatric conditions this process fails. Without veridical detection of safety, someone may express fear or anxiety even when the environmental cues indicate that danger is unlikely. The proposed work tests the hypothesis that the insular cortex is a critical contributor to safety learning and that neuroplastic changes in the insular cortex underlie the storage and recall of safety memory. This work has important implications for the treatment and diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder and other conditions that involve heightened fear and anxiety.
|Christianson, John P; Drugan, Robert C; Flyer, Johanna G et al. (2013) Anxiogenic effects of brief swim stress are sensitive to stress history. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 44:17-22|