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Current Trainees

Current Trainees

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Suzanne Nolan

Postdoctoral Scholar, Siciliano Lab

Suzanne received her Ph.D. in 2019 from Baylor University in the department of Psychology and Neuroscience, where she worked on understanding the influence of early-life factors, such as diet and seizure exposure, on the development of autistic-like behaviors in monogenic models of autism spectrum disorders. Suzanne joined Vanderbilt University in July of 2019, where she is focused on understanding how presynaptic and postsynaptic adaptations to the mesolimbic dopamine pathway underlie contingency learning.


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James Sears

Postdoctoral Scholar, Broadie Lab

I am researching the molecular and cellular function of Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP), loss of which results in Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common heritable cause of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. I model the disease state in Drosophila, working on conserved molecular machinery in the central brain learning and memory circuitry. I am focusing my investigations on activity-dependent signaling, cytoskeleton regulation and synapse formation/refinement. My aim is to dissect causes of and solutions for genetic sources of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability.


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Jessica Thomas

Postdoctoral Scholar/ Colbran Lab

It is well established that Ca2+/calmodulin dependent protein kinase II alpha (CaMKII alpha) is important for synaptic plasticity, learning and memory. Mutations in the CAMK2A gene, which encodes CaMKII alpha, have been linked to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability. Previous characterization of mice harboring an ASD-associated Glu183 to Val knock-in mutation in CaMKII alpha (E183V-KI), which reduces CaMKII alpha expression and activity, revealed an impairment in social motivation, increased repetitive behaviors, as well as hyperactivity. Thus, I am interested in understanding the underlying sensory deficits that contribute to social impairments in E183V-KI mice.