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keywords: cerebellum, social, development, cognition, autism
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.
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.
Jorge Espinoza: Jorge graduated with a Bachelor's degree from ASU in Biological Sciences. He became interested in behavioral neurosciences while studying olfactory deficits in neurodegenerative diseases. His recent experiences have generated a unique interest in learning and memory studies, with a special interest in brain trauma, imagery as pertaining to odors, and nervous system repair. Outside of research Jorge is interested in reading and watching classic movies.
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.
JOIN THE LAB!!
Undergraduate and Graduate students interested in joining the lab can contact Dr. Verpeut directly to discuss a variety of opportunities.
We are hiring a Postdoctoral Research Scholar to study neural signaling and synaptic plasticity in awake behaving rodents to understand cerebellar modulation in development.