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Mark Wilson, PhD

Division Chief
Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience

Phone: 404-727-9058

Fax: 404-727-8088



Mark Wilson, PhD, studies how psychosocial factors affect behavioral, metabolic and reproductive health in females.

In collaboration with Dr. Mar Sanchez and with funding NICHD, Dr. Wilson investigates how social stress, imposed by subordinate social status, interacts with intake of calorically dense diets and emerging obesity to influence neurobehavioral development in female rhesus monkeys. Longitudinal assessments of emotional and social behavior are quantified coupled with structural and functional brain imaging. The researchers design the studies to determine whether inflammatory cytokines and/or signals from the stress axis mediate the adverse effects of stress and obesity on development. 

Studies funded by the NIDDK are determining factors that initiate and sustain emotional feeding in females. Previous work by the Wilson Lab and others indicate that social subordination in female rhesus monkeys produces a dysregulation of the stress hormone axis and the emergence of a number of stress related phenotypes, including excessive intake of a calorically dense diet. The researchers have designed the current studies to determine how stress-induced decreases in the dopamine 2 receptor binding in corticolimbic regions, assessed by PET imaging, predict sustained emotional feeding and obesity. These studies are also allowing the researchers to evaluate possible interventional approaches, including social stress alleviation and antagonism of central CRF receptors. 

In collaboration with Drs. Zach Johnson (Yerkes NPRC), Jenny Tung (Duke University) and Luis Barreiro (Montreal), and with funding from NIGMS, Dr. Wilson’s studies are determining how social stress, imposed by subordinate social status in adult female rhesus monkeys affects genome-wide expression and whether stress related differences are due to epigenetic changes. In addition, in vitro testing of cell specific monocytres will determine whether these differences translate to altered immune function and increased susceptibity to infection. Through these studies, Dr. Wilson will directly assess whether stress alleviation changes genome-wide epression or whether epigentic changes in inflammatory genes linger.

Dr. Wilson collaborates with a number of researchers at Yerkes, including Drs. Jocelyne Bachevalier, Kelly Ethun, Robert Hampton, Leonard Howell, Zach Johnson, Mar Sanchez and Kim Wallen.


View publications on PubMed