I am a second year student and will be completing my thesis work in the laboratory of Dr. Sachin Patel. The Patel lab investigates the relationship between endocannabinoid signaling and stress-induced neuroadaptation. By understanding the molecular, structural, and physiological adaptations in endocannabinoid signaling that occur in response to stress, we hope to uncover novel bio-markers and pharmacological targets for drug development. My project will focus on investigating the role of endocannabinoid signaling in social interaction and social stress.
My clinical mentor, Dr. Blythe Corbett is a pediatric neuropsychologist and the director of the Social Emotional Neuroscience Endocrinology (SENSE) lab. The SENSE lab aims to better understand the relationship between social interaction and stress responsivity in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). One of the clinical programs that the laboratory currently investigates is the SENSE Theatre program, a theatrical intervention program that is designed to improve the social and emotional functioning of children with ASD and related neurodevelopmental disorders. With the SENSE lab I work with subjects through the duration of the Theatre program as a counselor and am able to observe patients and their social interactions while also acting as a mentor to the participants. This opportunity so far has given me immense insight to the types of behaviors that patients with ASD present with, and the types of symptoms that are the most detrimental to their quality of life. This experience has allowed me to enhance the behavioral assays in mouse models I use in the lab to more accurately reflect the behaviors I see in the patients, and has given me insight to the types of symptoms that are most critical to enhancing the quality of life of patients when developing novel therapeutic targets.