Erika Vitale, Ph.D.
- Ph.D., Behavioral Neuroscience, Michigan State University (2020)
- MS, Psychology, Michigan State University (2016)
- B.S., Psychology, Florida State University (2013)
- Neurobiology of social behaviors, including social bonding, parental behavior, and partner loss
- Impact of early life adversity on adult social behavior
- Role of neurotransmitter and neuropeptide systems in social decision-making
- B.S., Biochemistry, Viterbo University, LaCrosse, WI (2019)
- Behavioral pharmacology
- Neurobiology and circuitry of Social Decision-Making
- B.G.S., Applied Behavioral Sciences, Basic Research Emphasis, University of Kansas (2017)
- Affective disorders
- Social anxiety associated with social defeat
- Treatment of behavioral symptomology and underlying neuroendocrine deficits
- B.S., Pharmacy, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, Columbia (2016)
- Behavioral neuroscience
- B.S., Biochemistry, Case Western Reserve University (2016)
- Interactions between social behaviors and stress
- Neurobiology underlying behavioral changes in response to natural stressors
- Neurocircuitry regulating approach/avoidance decision-making and social bonding
Adam Smith's doctoral research discovered a local circuit in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus responsive to environmental stress and social interaction and modulated by the neuropeptide oxytocin. Dr. Smith then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health. He joined the University of Kansas in 2016 where he has studied the function of neuropeptide circuits in social behavior and stress. The Smith Lab studies the neuroscience of social attachment by exploring the natural ecology of the socially monogamous prairie vole to identify the mechanisms underlying pair bond formation, social buffering, consoling behavior, and social loss.
Students in his lab learn techniques in neuroscience, genetics, pharmacology, bioanalytics and animal behavior.
My research focuses primarily on the neurobiological substrates of social behavior and social detriments of mental health. In particular, my scientific interests encompass the role of neuropeptide and neurotransmitter circuits (including oxytocin, vasopressin, CRH, and dopamine) on regulating the (1) formation and maintain of close relationships and social bonds and (2) bi-directional relationship between stress and sociality. My laboratory employs a multitude of behavioral assays, neuronal circuit anatomical and activity mapping using various histological techniques, microdialysis, and viral neuronal tracing, and modern neuroscience tools such as optogenetics, chemogenetics, and viral gene delivery.
The long-term goal of this research is to deconstruct the neurobiology of sociality and develop novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of social and emotional disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and depression.
My laboratory is currently exploring the life history and neurobiology of the pair bond, the bond that is established between adult monogamous pairs, in the socially monogamous prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) as a model to discover the neurobiology that underlies how (1) new social relationships are formed, (2) social relationships promote resiliency and recovery from traumatic life events (known as social buffering), and (3) social loss serves as a major risk factor for morbidity of several mental health disorders. These research areas all feature emerging topics in the field of Social Neuroscience from expanding our knowledge of social stress (which is the most robust source and form of stress in our society) to implementing social support and peptide administration as novel therapeutics to improve the symptoms of mental health disorders associated with sociality.
- Postdoctoral Fellowship, Section of Neural Gene Expression, NIMH (2013 - 2016)
- Doctor of Philosophy, Neuroscience, Florida State University, Place Tallahassee, FL (2013)
- Master of Arts, Psychology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE (2009)
- Bachelor of Science, Psychology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE (2007)
Adam Smith's research focuses on the neurobiological substrates of social behavior and stress.