PHARMACOLOGY FACULTY
Selected Publications
  • Green, M.K., Rani, C.S.S., Joshi, A., Soto-Pina, A.E., Martinez, P.A., Frazer, A., Strong, R., Morilak, D.A. (2011) Prenatal stress induces long term stress vulnerability, compromising stress response systems in the brain and impairing extinction of conditioned fear after adult stress. Neuroscience, 192:438-451.
  • Campeau, S., Liberzon, I., Morilak, D.A. and Ressler, K.J. (2011) Stress Modulation of cognitive and affective processes. Stress, 14:503-519.
  • Girotti M., Donegan, J.J. and Morilak, D.A. (2011) Chronic intermittent cold stress sensitizes neuro-immune reactivity in the rat brain. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36:1164-1174.
  • Bondi, C.O., Jett, J.D. and Morilak, D.A. (2010) Beneficial effects of desipramine on cognitive function of chronically stressed rats are mediated by alpha1-adrenergic receptors in medial prefrontal cortex. Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry, 34: 913-923. PMCID: PMC2910206 .
  • Lapiz-Bluhm, M.D.S., Morilak, D.A. (2010) A cognitive deficit induced in rats by chronic intermittent cold stress is reversed by chronic antidepressant treatment. Int. J. Neuropsychopharmacol., 13: 997-1009. PMCID: PMC2924942.
  • Ma, S., Mifflin, S.W., Cunningham, J.T., and Morilak, D.A. (2008) Chronic intermittent hypoxia sensitizes acute hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal stress reactivity and Fos induction in the rat locus coeruleus in response to subsequent immobilization stress. Neuroscience, 154:1639-1647.
  • Bondi, C.O., Rodriguez, G., Gould, G.G., Frazer, A.F., and Morilak, D.A. (2008) Chronic unpredictable stress induces a cognitive deficit and anxiety-like behavior in rats that is prevented by chronic antidepressant drug treatment. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33:320-331.
David Morilak
 

David Morilak
Professor of Pharmacology
Ph.D., Princeton University

Office: 210-567-4174
Email: morilak@uthscsa.edu

 

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Keywords

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

 

Research Summary

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 •

'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


• Lab Personnel •

Dr. Milena Girotti - Instructor

Lauren Evans - Research Assistant

Denisse Parades - Research Assistant

Michael Patton - Research Assistant

Jeri Silva - Research Assistant

Julianne Jett - Graduate Student

Elizabeth Fucich - Graduate Student