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Jessica Verpeut will be joining as an Assistant Professor in the behavioral neuroscience program in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University in January 2021. Her research focuses on the influence of cerebellar activity during development on neocortical structure, social and flexible behavior utilizing whole-brain imaging and unsupervised behavior classification. The ultimate goal of her research program is to understand how the brain develops to produce typical behavior. The cerebellum has highly conserved neural architecture and circuitry with distal connections to known motor, cognitive, and social regions. Pediatric injury of the cerebellum is highly associated with neural developmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Understanding how the cerebellum fine-tunes neural development is essential to providing better diagnostic criteria and outcomes for individuals with neural developmental disorders.
Dr. Verpeut received her undergraduate degree in animal science and psychology from Pennsylvania State University and her doctoral degree in endocrinology and animal biosciences at Rutgers University. As a postdoctoral research fellow funded by the New Jersey Brain Injury Research Committee, Jessica developed a chemogenetic cerebellar model of autism and mapped cerebello-cortical connections that contribute to flexible behavior.
My lab will open January 2021 and I am recruiting motivated individuals to study how the cerebellum modulates social and flexible behavior during specific developmental periods. Abnormal cerebellar development is highly linked to neurodevelopmental disorders, namely autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and connects in a multisynaptic pathway to cognitive and social brain regions. In an attempt to understand these connections my lab will take a whole-brain approach using tissue clearing and light sheet microscopy. We will ask whether these pathways and distal connected brain regions are altered through early-life perturbations through optogenetics and chemogenetic mechanisms. Furthermore, if an early-life injury to the cerebellum alters distal brain regions through epigenetic mechanisms. As the cerebellum is the key structure for interpreting sensory input, my lab will study freely-moving animal behavior using machine learning and automated behavior classification.
Guest editor for JoVE Methods Collection: "Current methods for determining the role of climbing fibers in cerebellar function"
2015- present Society for Neuroscience