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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New NIH-funded study on stress-related behaviors has applications to PTSD

Through a new project funded by the NIH, Assistant Professor Rebecca Shansky and University of Calgary colleague Dr. Matthew Hill will be studying the neural mechanisms that underlie sex differences in the way the brain responds to stress.

Northeastern neuroscientist joins Dalai Lama to explore spirituality and science

Stress and fear have far-reaching effects that start in the brain and permeate an individual’s life in lasting ways. Together with the Dalai Lama and other experts, Northeastern neuroscientist Rebecca Shansky is confronting trauma head-on in an effort to help communities in Africa heal from conflict.

Northeastern Psychology Professor to meet with the Dalai Lama to share her research

Northeastern Psychology Professor Rebecca Shansky will head to Gaborone, Botswana this August to partake in the Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, hosted by the Mind and Life Institute. She will share her research on the brain’s response to stress and trauma on stage with other neuroscientists, activists, and scholars.

Professor’s seminar on scientific literature paves the road to creative thinking

In Rebecca Shansky’s course on biological psychology, students learn how to critically analyze academic papers while they simultaneously gain a solid footing in the literature, exploring the ways animal research contributes to our understanding of psychiatric disorders.

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.

What lights their fire

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