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Smith, Laura Assistant Professor


I am interested in the molecular and circuit mechanisms of complex behavior and how alterations in synaptic connectivity between neurons lead to the maladaptive features of neuropsychiatric illnesses. Impairments in synaptic pruning are observed in autism spectrum disorders and may contribute to symptoms such as sensory hypersensitivity and social overstimulation. Repeated exposure to drugs of abuse also alters synapses in brain reward regions, and addiction-related synaptic and behavioral changes, similar to learning and memory, require the synthesis, or translation, of proteins in their local vicinity. Together these findings suggest that addiction is promoted and sustained through the coercion of normal plasticity mechanisms. Thus, investigating the function of developmental proteins in the adult brain, with regard to psychiatric and substance-related disorders, may reveal novel therapeutic and preventative strategies.

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HR job title

  • Assistant Professor