Research within our laboratory primarily uses murine models to study fatigue-, depression-, and anxiety-like behavior (e.g., voluntary wheel running, locomotor activity, operant conditioning, classical tests of anti-depressant activity) in the context of cancer (e.g., mEER tumor, LLC tumor), cancer therapy (e.g., cisplatin, radiation), and/or inflammation (e.g., aging, maternal immune activation, stress, diabetes). We aim to understand how these conditions initiate and maintain behavioral changes. The nature of this research requires an interdisciplinary approach incorporating methodologies from a variety of fields including: psychology, neuroscience, endocrinology, immunology, and pharmacology.
- One of our central interests is in understanding the role of mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the development of cancer-related fatigue. Using mouse models of cancer and a curative regimen of chemoradiation, we aim to better understand the mechanisms by which cancer and treatment disrupt cellular energy production. This research is being conducted in collaboration with Robert Dantzer at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
- Another area of interest within the laboratory explores the mechanisms underlying vulnerability to developing fatigue and depression in the context of cancer. Individuals with cancer often report vastly different experiences. Some patients suffer from significant fatigue and/or depression at the time of diagnosis, through treatment, and into survivorship. Other patients report a remarkably low symptom burden. We seek to understand what factors predict resilient verses vulnerable phenotypes. A multitude of variables (e.g., genetics, life experience, age, and disease/treatment-related factors) likely contribute. Ongoing work is focused on understanding the role of stress and dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.
- Further, we have a developing area of interest in understanding the role of non-classical inflammatory signaling pathways in the development of depression-like behavior and cognitive impairment in chronic inflammatory conditions (e.g., aging, diabetes, obesity).