Rebecca Shansky

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PhD, Neurobiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT
BA, Psychology, Columbia University, New York, NY

Area(s) of Expertise

Sex differences and brain function

Research Interests

Our research focuses on the neural connections between the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the amygdala, and sex differences in how this circuit processes fear and responds to stress. The mPFC and amygdala are frequently reported to be sites of dysfunction in stress-related mental illnesses like Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the symptoms of which may be a result of abnormal cross-talk between the two regions. Since women are twice as likely as men to develop these disorders, relevant research in female animals is particularly important.

In the lab, we combine classic neuroanatomy techniques with state-of-the-art confocal microscopy to reconstruct neurons in 3D. By correlating structural information with behavioral measures, we can identify potential markers of vulnerability and resilience. In addition, we use behavioral pharmacology and immunofluorescence to probe interactions between ovarian hormones and neurotransmitter systems. Specifically, we are interested in estrogen’s ability to modulate dopamine actions in the mPFC, and how this can affect memory for a traumatic event.

Lab Website

Curriculum Vitae


Department of Psychology
125 Nightingale Hall

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Researchers’ preclinical trial upends conventional wisdom about responses to fear

For more than a century scientists have recognized “freezing” as the natural fear response. But in a new study, Northeastern assistant professor of psychology Rebecca Shansky found that female rats often respond to fear by “darting.” The find­ings not only raise ques­tions about the veracity of pre­vious studies that rely on freezing to indi­cate fear, but could also lead to better treat­ments for post-​​traumatic stress dis­order.

Researchers in Shansky Lab Make Cover of Biological Psychiatry

The journal cover features a stunning visual of a pyramidal neuron, captured in Rebecca Shansky’s lab by unique neural imaging technologies.

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Four professors in the College of Science explain what drives their passion for science and discovery.