William Carlezon, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry
Behavioral Genetics Lab, MRC 217
115 Mill Street
Belmont, MA 2478
Visit my lab page here.
The Behavioral Genetics Laboratory (BGL) is a multidisciplinary, preclinical research program that explores in animals how genes affect complex motivated behaviors. We are particularly interested in how experiences such as exposure to psychotropic drugs (including illicit substances and clinically-prescribed treatments such as methylphenidate or antidepressants) or stress affect gene expression within the mesolimbic system (ventral tegmental area, nucleus accumbens) and related structures (frontal cortex, amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis). We study how these molecular adaptations lead to alterations in motivated (reward- or aversion-driven) behaviors.
We can mimic the effects of drug exposure or stress on gene expression through the use of engineered viral vectors, which allow us to transfer genes directly into select brain areas. We can also manipulate gene expression using genetically engineered mice. We use a variety of behavioral assays in rodents (place conditioning, rewarding brain stimulation, fear-potentiated startle, prepulse inhibition, forced swimming, 5-choice serial reaction time task), each of which models key aspects of addiction or neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression, mania, schizophrenia, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Researchers in the BGL use a wide range of methodologies, including behavioral analyses (in rats and mice), stereotaxic surgery, histology, neuroanatomy, gene microarrays, and medicinal chemistry. The Carlezon lab participates in translational research with clinical groups at McLean Hospital, including Dr. Bruce Cohen's Molecular Pharmacology Laboratory. The Carlezon lab is a component of a Conte Neuroscience Center Grant awarded to Dr. Eric J. Nestler in the Department of Psychiatry at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), this award supports collaborative research on mental health and includes scientists from numerous universities around the United States. The specific purpose of this grant is to study the molecular basis of mood regulation. We are also part of a consortium of Harvard neuroscientists that received a Collaborative Initiative Award (CIA) from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Led by Dr. Catherine Dulac, the purpose of this award is to study how gene imprinting affects brain development and behavior within the context of psychiatric illness. Thus we offer a broad perspective on neuroscience within the context of the study and treatment of psychiatric illness.
For a complete listing of publications click here.