David Morilak
Selected Publications

David Morilak

Professor of Pharmacology
Ph.D., Princeton University

Office: 210-567-4174


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Research Interests

• antidepressants • anxiety
• behavior • cognition
• depression • HPA axis
• in situ hybridization                     • microdialysis
• norepinephrine • PTSD
• stress

Research Activities

We study the negative impact of stress, and mechanisms for better treatment of stress-related psychiatric disorders. Our focus is on the brain neurotransmitter norepinephrine (NE) and its role in a) acute behavioral, cognitive and endocrine responses to stress; b) adaptive and maladaptive responses to chronic stress; and c) regulatory mechanisms of action of psychotherapeutic drugs. NE is an important neuromodulatory transmitter, which plays a critical role in the acute response to stress by influencing arousal and sensorimotor response capabilities, and by integrating autonomic and endocrine responses with behavior. Using in vivo microdialysis and behavioral pharmacology, we investigate the role of NE in modulating anxiety-like behavioral and neuroendocrine responses to acute stress, and in enhancing higher-order cognitive processes in the prefrontal cortex related to arousal and attention. At a molecular and cellular level, we study regulatory changes in gene expression in brain noradrenergic neurons induced by stress, including synthetic enzymes, the NE transporter and post-synaptic adrenergic receptors using in situ hybridization. We assess changes in noradrenergic function produced by chronic stress that may contribute to stress-related pathology such as depression, PTSD or anxiety disorders. We also investigate the regulatory changes in NE function that contribute to the beneficial effects of antidepressant and anxiolytic drugs. Experimental approaches include behavioral tests of cognition, arousal, anxiety and defensive responses; intracerebral drug microinjections; in vivo microdialysis to measure neurotransmitter release in behaving rats; in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry and receptor autoradiography; radioimmunoassay for plasma hormone measures; and the application of chronic metabolic and psychogenic stressors. These studies will help us to understand the differential roles of NE and other monoaminergic neurotransmitters in a number of complex physiological contexts, including the response to acute stress, the development of chronic stress-related psychopathology such as anxiety or depression, and the mechanisms of beneficial action of psychotherapeutic agents such as antidepressants.

• Accomplishments, Awards and Honors •

2013 President’s Council Faculty Scholar Award - UTHSCSA - Feb. 2013

2012 Faculty Leadership Award - UTHSCSA - Sept. 2012

• Appointments, Boards, Committees and Memberships •

Director - Center for Biomedical Neuroscience

• Lectures, Posters and Presentations •

'The dual role of norepinephrine in modulating cognitive flexibility in prefrontal cortex: Acute facilitation and chronic stress-induced attenuation', 29th CINP Congress, Vancouver, CA, June 24, 2014

'Strategies to meet the challenges to graduate training', Society for Neuroscience, Professional Development Workshop on Challenges to Training in Neuroscience, Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, Nov 9, 2013

'Bend your mind – Stress and cognitive flexibility in prefrontal cortex', 46th Annual Winter Conference on Brain Research, Breckenridge, CO, Jan 26-31, 2013

'Jekyll and Hyde: Noradrenergic modulation in acute and chronic stress', 10th International Catecholamine Symposium, Asilomar CA, Sept 9-13, 2012

'Modulatory function of brain norepinephrine in stress adaptation, stress-related psychiatric disorders, and their treatment', Forest Research Laboratories, Inc., Jersey City, NJ, June 22, 2011

'Deconstructing neuroscience graduate curricula: non-didactic coursework and assessment', SfN Neuroscience Departments and Programs Spring Conference, Washington DC, March 25, 2011

• Research Group •

Dr. Sarah Bulin
Sarah Bulin, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Lauren Evans
Lauren Evans
Research Assistant
Denisse Parades
Denisse Parades
Research Assistant
Michael Patton
Michael Patton
Research Assistant

Jeri Silva
Jeri Silva
Research Assistant