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.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Career Transition Award (K99)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1-ERB-L (01))
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Desmond, Nancy L
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University of Colorado at Boulder
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Sørensen, Andreas T; Cooper, Yonatan A; Baratta, Michael V et al. (2016) A robust activity marking system for exploring active neuronal ensembles. Elife 5:
Foilb, Allison R; Flyer-Adams, Johanna G; Maier, Steven F et al. (2016) Posterior insular cortex is necessary for conditioned inhibition of fear. Neurobiol Learn Mem 134 Pt B:317-27
Christianson, John P; Flyer-Adams, Johanna G; Drugan, Robert C et al. (2014) Learned stressor resistance requires extracellular signal-regulated kinase in the prefrontal cortex. Front Behav Neurosci 8:348
Amat, Jose; Christianson, John P; Aleksejev, Roman M et al. (2014) Control over a stressor involves the posterior dorsal striatum and the act/outcome circuit. Eur J Neurosci 40:2352-8
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
Drugan, Robert C; Christianson, John P; Warner, Timothy A et al. (2013) Resilience in shock and swim stress models of depression. Front Behav Neurosci 7:14
Varela, Juan A; Wang, Jungang; Christianson, John P et al. (2012) Control over stress, but not stress per se increases prefrontal cortical pyramidal neuron excitability. J Neurosci 32:12848-53
Christianson, John P; Fernando, Anushka B P; Kazama, Andy M et al. (2012) Inhibition of fear by learned safety signals: a mini-symposium review. J Neurosci 32:14118-24
Strong, P V; Christianson, J P; Loughridge, A B et al. (2011) 5-hydroxytryptamine 2C receptors in the dorsal striatum mediate stress-induced interference with negatively reinforced instrumental escape behavior. Neuroscience 197:132-44