Current Research

Levine Laboratory for Social-Developmental Neuroscience

Current Research

Pre-clinical and Clinical Approaches in Social Neuroscience

Attachment has been shown to play a key role in an infant’s survival, yet the systems involved in attachment processes remain important to health and longevity throughout life. We are interested in studying the mechanisms by which social involvement affects health, and to do this we have utilize an animal models to investigate the effects of social involvement on stress response and behaviors related to health and longevity. We are also interested in the utilization of social neuroscience-based principals to target the affiliation system and assist individuals in building a more secure working model. We intend to develop psychotherapy strategies to assist different populations, including children, adolescents, and young adult, and people in recovery for drug addiction.

Extracellular Vesicles in Biomarker Discovery of Psychiatric Disorders and Emotional States

Our work seeks to characterize molecular signatures in cargoes (RNA, proteins, metabolites) and lipid contents of small extracellular vesicles in serum that will be able to point at specific emotional/physical states and predict treatment outcomes. We are pursuing this in various patient populations, including a clinical trial evaluating treatment response to SSRIs in children, adolescence, and young adults, and in a study evaluating outcomes in people treated for substance use disorders.

Molecular Studies of Adolescent Brain Development

Our research focuses on molecular regulation of various mental states, with a special interest in the molecular processes that are unique to the adolescent brain and, especially, how experiences in adolescence shape adult phenotypes. To this end we are using PET imaging and molecular biology techniques to explore in mice and rats, both in vivo and ex vivo, the effect of exposure to various substances of abuse on the shaping of the adult brain. We are also interested in modeling, in collaboration with Anke Ehrhardt and Walter Bockting, how the use of puberty suppressant medications in adolescence may affect the adult brain.