Understanding how neural circuits are organized in the brain to generate diverse behaviors
Norepinephrine-expressing neurons are a small population of cells located deep in the brainstem. The circuits formed by these neurons are responsible for mediating a variety of behaviors including regulation of the fight or flight response, attention modulation, and memory formation. Our lab is interested in exploring the heterogeneity of these NE circuits and identifying novel mechanisms that regulate their function in vivo. This work will help determine how changes in these circuits contribute to diseases like anxiety and depression.
NE neural circuits are conserved from mice to humans and responsible for mediating a myriad of behaviors. The small size of the NE neuron population suggests that heterogeneity at the molecular and organizational level enables this diversity in behavioral response. When these neuronal circuits are dysfunctional, they can contribute to anxiety disorders and other neuropsychiatric diseases.
Current projects in the lab focus on 1) identifying molecular and anatomical heterogeneity in NE brain circuits 2) visualizing patterns of neural activity in NE circuits in vivo in behaving rodents 3) exploring the relationship between cognitive arousal and respiratory brain regions 4) determining how changes in these brain circuits contribute to diseases like anxiety and depression and 5) developing new molecular tools to target neurons based on distinct properties.
We use a wide variety of techniques to leverage our exploration of different populations of NE neurons and the organization of other neuroanatomical circuits, including viral tracing, next generation sequencing, in vivo imaging, and optogenetics.
Dr. Lindsay Schwarz comes from a small town in Washington state and attended University of Washington for her undergraduate studies, where she was also a member of their Division I Women’s Rowing team. She went on to receive her PhD in Biology from UCSD under the mentorship of Dr. Gentry Patrick, and then completed her postdoctoral training in the lab of Dr. Liqun Luo at Stanford University. In the Luo lab, she studied neural circuit organization and function and developed intersectional viral-genetic tools to study circuits in the mammalian brain. Dr. Schwarz opened her lab at St. Jude in 2017, and since then has earned numerous accolades including the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Rita Allen Foundation Scholar Award, the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Young Investigator Grant, and The Hartwell Foundation Individual Biomedical Research Award. Dr. Schwarz leads a vibrant and rigorous team and is committed to providing strong mentorship and creating an inclusive and collegial work environment.
Bright and collaborative scientists with experience in fundamental neuroscience, next generation genetic technologies, and animal behavior