The SOCIAL Neurobiology lab (Verpeut)

Verpeut Lab
Keywords
keywords: cerebellum, social, development, cognition, autism
Lab Area
Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology
Neuroscience
Lab Director
Dr. Jessica Verpeut
Actively Recruiting Undergraduate Researchers
Yes

The SOCIAL (Study of Circuits in Adolescent life) Neurobiology lab, led by Dr. Verpeut, studies the development of neural circuits and structure in early life to understand behavior. The lab specifically focuses on long distance neural circuits from the cerebellar cortex involved in social and flexible behavior. This research is motivated by clinical findings describing an increased risk of autism diagnosis in children with a cerebellar injury at birth. We are interested in understanding sensitive periods of neural development and how circuits encode behavior. Our main goals encompass four main areas including sensitive periods of neural development, understanding natural behavior, decoding how genes and the environment influence neural maturation, and analyzing the effect of neuromodulators on downstream signaling pathways. To accomplish these goals, the lab utilizes viral neural manipulation techniques, whole-brain imaging using lightsheet microscopy, and unsupervised machine learning to understand behavior in rodent models.

Dr. Jessica Verpeut is an alumnus of Pennsylvania State University where she studied migratory behaviors and neuroendocrine signaling with Professor Paul Bartell. She received a Bachelor's degree from Penn State in 2010 with a double-major in Animal Science and Psychology. She went on to study behavioral outcomes of a ketogenic diet on neural mechanisms in Engrailed-2 mice with Nicholas T. Bello and obtained her doctorate in Endocrinology and Animal Biosciences from Rutgers University in 2015. Continuing her interests in autism and neural development, Dr. Verpeut joined the laboratory of Professor Samuel S.-H. Wang to study cerebello-cortical pathways and the cognitive cerebellum. Dr. Verpeut was awarded a New Jersey Brain Injury Research Fellowship as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Princeton Neuroscience Institute and developed reversible viral manipulations in mice to map cerebello-cortical connections that contribute to social and flexible behavior. In 2021, Dr. Verpeut joined ASU to start the SOCIAL (Study of Circuits in Adolescent life) Neurobiology laboratory. Outside of the lab, she enjoys exploring national parks with her wife, Danielle, and their dog.

Lab Manager

Akshita Vora

Akshita Vora: Akshita graduated with a Bachelor's degree from ASU in Health Sciences. She is currently pursuing veterinary school and aims to open a non-profit animal shelter in her hometown in India. She became interested in behavioral neurosciences while studying neurodevelopmental disorders in children, and has generated an interest in prosocial behaviors that require high cognitive and social skills. In her free time, Akshita enjoys painting, listening to music, and cooking. 

Doctoral Students

Tristan Lyle, Doctoral Student. I received my BA in Psychology at the University of Northern Colorado and MS in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University in 2021. As part of my master’s journey, I was able to gain direct experience applying behavior analytic interventions to develop and grow communicative and social skills in individuals with developmental disorders (e.g., ASD). I am eager to further develop Dr. Verpeut’s research on the effects of cerebellar function during sensitive developmental periods and the signaling pathways associated with cognitive and social functions.  

Undergraduate Researchers

Megan Nelson: Megan is a sophomore in Barrett, the Honors College double-majoring in psychology and biological sciences with a concentration in neurobiology, physiology and behavior. She has a variety of research interests, which include interactions between genes and the environment, animal behavior, memory, and sex differences. Her goal is to earn a PhD in neuroscience in order to work as a researcher in academia. In her free time, Megan enjoys exercising, reading, and listening to podcasts.

Marina Ittner: Marina was born and raised in Montana. She is currently a sophomore in Barrett, the Honors College. Marina is double-majoring in Psychology and Neuroscience, with a minor in French. Her primary interests lie with biological abnormalities associated with mental disorders, including developmental sources and the long-term effects of substance use. Marina is excited to get started on research and looks forward to the opportunities the lab will offer!

Sarah Shipley: Sarah is currently a junior in Barrett, the Honors College and majoring in Psychology with a concentration in Psychological Science. She is primarily interested in the development of mental and developmental disorders in childhood and adolescence, specifically as they relate to brain structure and function. Outside of research, Sarah enjoys reading literature with a cup of tea in her hand and a cat on her lap.

Katie Koch: Katie is in her third year at Barrett, the Honors College, studying Psychology with a minor in Spanish Language. She has a range of interests in psychology, particularly psychopharmacology and the neurobiology of substance use. Katie hopes to further develop her research experience by completing her honors thesis alongside Dr. Verpeut. Outside of her studies, Katie enjoys creating art, doing yoga, and spending time with her cats. 
 

JOIN THE LAB!!

There are a variety of opportunities available in the lab:

Graduate students

Prospective students must meet the minimum qualification for Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology Graduate Program and submit a formal application. Students with animal science, neuroscience, computational science, and biology backgrounds are highly desirable. The lab is actively searching for highly motivated, responsible, independent, and creative individuals to work with rodent models to solve big questions in neuroscience. Please contact Dr. Verpeut directly with questions or if interested in submitting an application.

Undergraduate researchers

There are various opportunities for undergraduate students in the lab and volunteers are welcome. Students studying neuroscience or computational sciences will be given highest priority. To participate, at least two semesters and a minimum of ten hours per week must be dedicated to the lab. It is expected that students are responsible, motivated, organized, and respectful. All students must adhere to proper safety procedures, maintain proper data records, and laboratory notes. It is an overarching goal of the laboratory that students from all backgrounds can engage in learning and discussion free of judgement or criticism. Please contact Dr. Verpeut or the laboratory manager for an application. 

For a list of previous work, please use the following link.

 Research

  • ASU NOW story: More than a 'little brain' by Kimberlee D’Ardenne 12/10/2020
  • The SOCIAL Neurobiology lab recently opened in January 2021 and is recruiting at all levels to study the cerebellum, behavior, and development.