My laboratory aims to understand the mechanisms that shape brain development and lifelong behavior, with a focus on the interactions between nervous, endocrine and immune systems. We investigate how hormones and innate immune cells in the brain, such as microglia and mast cells, contribute to normal brain development and sex differences in the brain. Additionally, we study how innate immune cells and their signaling shape brain circuits and behavioral phenotypes related to neuropsychiatric disorders that are known to occur more in either males or females (e.g., autism, anxiety and mood disorders). We also examine how perinatal experiences, including immune or allergic challenge, perinatal stress, maternal and social interactions alter brain development and resulting behavior throughout life.
To accomplish these goals, we use a variety of techniques in rodents, including pharmacological and behavioral manipulations, immunohistochemistry, stereology, single cell morphological analysis, cellular and molecular biology (gene expression, protein measurement and enzymatic activity assays), primary cell culture, and behavioral testing.