BS in Psychology, McGill University;
Ph.D. Neurological Sciences, McGill University
behavioral and systems neuroscience, chronic stress; early life events; individual differences
The research program of the Bhatnagar lab seeks to define the neural circuits that promote adaptation to chronic stress. While activation of neural, endocrine and behavioral responses to stress is necessary for survival, chronic or repeated stress can have deleterious consequences and drive the etiology or progression of affective disorders, anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and inflammatory disorders. Two adaptations have evolved to limit these consequences while retaining the ability to respond to a dynamic environment: habituation, a progressive decrease in response to repeated exposure to predictable and primarily psychological stressors and facilitation, the ability to remain responsive to novel stressors. Disruptions in habituation and/or facilitation are observed in affective and anxiety disorders such as depression and PTSD. Studying these two fundamental components of the normal response to stress can reveal circuitry important for normal adaptation to stress and identify strategies to limit the consequences of maladaptations to stress. Thus, the first theme of my research program is to define the neural circuits that permit adaptation to repeated stress. However, only some stressed individuals are vulnerable to developing stress-related illness while others are resilient. The second theme investigates the factors that contribute to vulnerability in certain individuals and resilience in others. We are also intensively engaged in collaborations with clinicians to translate our findings from animal models into human subjects undergoing various types of challenges.
Neuroscience Graduate Group; Psychology Graduate Group