PhD, Neurobiology, Yale University, New Haven, CT
BA, Psychology, Columbia University, New York, NY
Area(s) of Expertise
Sex differences and brain function
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.
Department of Psychology
125 Nightingale Hall
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 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.
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.
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.
The journal cover features a stunning visual of a pyramidal neuron, captured in Rebecca Shansky’s lab by unique neural imaging technologies.
Four professors in the College of Science explain what drives their passion for science and discovery.