Depression and metabolic disruptions
Obesogenic diets high in fat and sugar can disrupt levels of neuroactive peptides (e.g., insulin), affecting not only metabolic processes like regulation of blood gluocose levels and adiposity, but also emotion regulation, eating behavior, and activity level. We're examining how diet-mediated changes in melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) might dually contribute to these psychological and metabolic changes, possibly through actions on dopamine signaling processes.
Salt, behavior, and neuroinflammation
Salt is one of the most prevalent, non-caloric dietary components. Consuming excess salt is generally advised against for cardiovascular health purposes. But how excess salt affects the brain, and all the behaviors it regulates, is vastly underexplored. We are investigating how excess salt consumption affects behavior across the sexes, and exploring the contributions of neuroinflammation to these behavioral shifts, with a particular emphasis on how responses to stressors are altered by high salt intake.
Plasma membrane monoamine transporter (PMAT)
PMAT (Slc29a4) preferentially transports dopamine and serotonin over other monoamines (e.g., norepinephrine) across the cell membrane. Drugs that act as antidepressants block dopamine and serotonin transport by inhibiting other transporter proteins, such as the dopamine transporter, but these drugs do not inhibit transport by PMAT. We hypothesize that this persistent transport of dopamine and serotonin by PMAT, in the presence of drugs intended to act as antidepressants, might help explain why some people don't experience a therapeutic effect. We're investigating this possibility using mice genetically engineered to have reduced PMAT function.
Outside the Lab
Kent State University is located in northeast Ohio, just south of Cleveland and east of Akron, and home to the recently established Brain Health Research Institute. The Gilman lab is housed in the Department of Psychological Sciences, a fantastically supportive group of highly collaborative researchers. Every year, Kent State hosts an Annual Neuroscience Symposium, and participates in the Northeast Ohio chapter of the Society for Neuroscience's annual poster session.
Northeast Ohio is a beautiful area of the country, offering a wealth of culture and outdoor activities for a very low cost of living. In fact, the Cleveland metropolitan area was found by researchers at the University of Southern California to be the third most affordable metropolitan area for renters in the United States. Only thirty minutes from Kent is the gorgeous (and free!) Cuyahoga Valley National Park, full of a variety of trails open during all four seasons.
Nearby Cleveland is the home of many professional sports teams, including the Browns, Cavaliers, and Indians. Cleveland is the location of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the expanding Pro Football Hall of Fame is just on the other side of Kent in Canton. Blossom Music Center is an outdoor concert venue located only 20 minutes away in Cuyahoga Falls. Northeast Ohio is easily accessible by air at both the Cleveland Hopkins (CLE) and Akron-Canton (CAK) airports. Kent is within a day's driving distance of 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, as well as several popular destinations, including Chicago, Toronto, Niagara Falls, and Washington, D.C.
For more information about all Northeast Ohio has to offer, see Kent State's Beyond Kent website.