The goal of the Conte Physiological and Behavioral Core is to enable Conte investigators to explore the physiological function of serotonergic neurons and circuits and the behavioral phenotypes of mouse models resulting from manipulation of 5-HT signaling and its development. Neuronal function will be assayed by electrophysiological experiments performed by core staff in consultation with investigators. The core will also provide equipment, personnel, facilities and expertise for a wide range of behavioral assays of investigator-generated mouse models. The Research Strategy of the Core is to provide infrastructure, technical assistance and services for i) visualized patch clamp electrophysiology of raphe 5-HT neurons and hippocampal neurons and ii) behavioral analyses of transgenic mice. These include the following: Sensorimotor and Somatosensory behavior using manual and semi-automated analyses in both home cage and novel testing environments and at distinct stages of circadian activity;Cognition, Anxiety and Social Interactions in which quantitative technologies are implemented to explore behaviors linked to anxiety, aggression, and social dynamics;Depression Models and SSRI Responsiveness/Reversal where the impact of changes in engineered or developmentally altered strains for response to 5-HT modulating antidepressants and reversal of behavioral deficits is assessed. The Physiological Unit of the Core consist of two dedicated electrophysiology rooms/rigs along with all necessary accessory tools for modern slice electrophysiology. The Behavioral Studies Unit uses space and resources affiliated with the Vanderbilt Laboratory for Neurobehavior, which occupies ~9000 sq ft of dedicated and modularly designed murine behavioral testing facilities. The Core Director is Douglas McMahon, PhD, who will also head the Physiological Studies Unit of the Core. Dr. McMahon is a highly experienced neurobiologist with more than 30 years experience in electrophysiology and imaging of the nervous system. The Core Co-Director is Gregg Stanwood, PhD, who will head the Behavioral Studies Unit of the Core. Dr. Stanwood is an experienced behavioral neuropharmacologist and developmental neurobiologist. Another key person in the Core is Dr. Hideki Iwamoto, an electrophysiologist with direct experience working with mouse 5-HT signaling models. Two leaders in the field, Drs. Irwin Lucki (Univ. of Pennsylvania) and Jacqueline Crawley (UC Davis), will serve as consultants to further aid our efforts. Each of the individual Projects makes extensive use of the Physiology and Behavioral Core to accomplish key aspects of their research plans.

Public Health Relevance

The Physiology and Behavioral Core is essential to achieving the overall Center goal of investigating the enduring impact of early life serotonin signaling. By providing in-depth experience, facilities and resources to measure behavioral outcomes of alterations in early serotonin signaling, as well as by bridging the molecular and behavioral analyses by assaying the function of serotonin neurons and circuits, this core will enhance and enable these critical aspects of the individual Conte Projects.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Specialized Center (P50)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMH1-ERB-S (02))
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
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