This Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (K08) will support a career goal of becoming an independent scientist within the field of basic and translational social neuroscience. I am an MD,PhD psychiatrist and Assistant Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Emory University. I am also a faculty member in the Emory Center for Translational Social Neuroscience (CTSN). My goal as a board certified psychiatrist is to study brain systems regulating social behaviors to develop improved treatments for their dysfunction. My short-term goals for this K08 are to learn cutting-edge molecular and behavioral techniques that will allow for studying the brain's social circuits. plan to further advance my education in social and molecular neuroscience through coursework, workshops and national meetings, and to become an expert grant writer. This training plan will include: 1) mentorship from, who have an outstanding range of combined expertise in social and molecular neuroscience; 2) hands on training in social behavioral assays in mice and in lentiviral, transgenic and Cre/Lox methods to dissect brain circuitry underlying social cognition and behavior; 3) coursework in social and molecular neuroscience offered through the Emory Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Cold Springs Harbor and The Wellcome Trust Summer School on the Biology of Social Cognition; 4) attendance at national meetings that have a focus on social and molecular neuroscience; 5) participation in grant writing courses offered at Emory University; 6) training in the ethical and responsible conduct of research. This scientific focus of this training plan will be on the role of hippocampal BDNF in social behavior. BDNF in the hippocampal CA1 region is implicated in social recognition memory, while its specific signaling in the hippocampal CA3 region is implicated in aggression towards other species members and social dominance. I hypothesize that BDNF in CA1 is critical to the consolidation of social recognition memory and to its underlying structural plasticity, while BDNF in CA3 is essential for normal levels of aggression and social dominance. In this proposal I will learn novel transgenic mouse technology while directly testing these hypotheses regarding the role of BDNF signaling in hippocampal function and social cognition and behavior. My research will: 1) directly test the role of BDNF signaling in consolidation of social recognition memory; 2) directly test the importance of BDNF in hippocampal regions to social behavior; 3) examine the effects of TrkB agonist treatment on mouse models of social impairment. This work is innovative because the impact of hippocampal BDNF on social cognition and behavior has not been well explored. This proposal will build on my background in molecular and histological methods while advancing my education in social neuroscience methods and in the most current molecular neuroscience techniques. This project will integrate well with the philosophy of the CTSN, which emphasizes the importance of animal models to inform clinical practice, and whose aim is a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to studying the neurobiology of social behavior.

Public Health Relevance

Social impairments in autism, schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder result in major limitations of psychosocial functioning and oftentimes do not respond to current treatments. This research will provide the basis for novel prevention and treatment strategies for these disorders of social function. The goals of this proposal are consistent with The National Institutes of Mental Health Strategic Objective 1: Promote Discovery in the Brain and Behavioral Sciences to Fuel Research on the Cause of Mental Disorders. Specifically, this research will use novel rodent models to study synaptic and behavioral plasticity relevant to social disorders. This animal work will provide the basis for human work to develop possible therapies for these disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Clinical Investigator Award (CIA) (K08)
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Pathophysiological Basis of Mental Disorders and Addictions Study Section (PMDA)
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Van'T Veer, Ashlee V
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Emory University
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Sanders, Jeff; Nemeroff, Charles (2016) The CRF System as a Therapeutic Target for Neuropsychiatric Disorders. Trends Pharmacol Sci 37:1045-1054
Essali, Norah; Sanders, Jeff (2016) Interdependent adrenergic receptor regulation of Arc and Zif268 mRNA in cerebral cortex. Neurosci Lett 612:38-42
Sanders, Jeff; Mayford, Mark (2016) Chronic fluoxetine dissociates contextual from auditory fear memory. Neurosci Lett 632:152-6
Gillikin, Cynthia; Habib, Leah; Evces, Mark et al. (2016) Trauma exposure and PTSD symptoms associate with violence in inner city civilians. J Psychiatr Res 83:1-7
Sanders, Jeff (2016) Data on Arc and Zif268 expression in the brain of the ?-2A adrenergic receptor knockout mouse. Data Brief 7:8-11
Sanders, Jeff (2016) Developmental DSP4 effects on cortical Arc expression. Neurosci Lett 618:89-93