Researcher, Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience
Yerkes National Primate Research Center
Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Emory University School of Medicine
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.
In July 2015, Dr. Wilson was selected to serve on the Pathophysiological Basis of Mental Disorders and Addictions Study Section within the Center for Scientific Review at the National Institutes of Health. His term runs through June 2019. Members are selected on the basis of their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors. Membership on a study section represents a major commitment of professional time and energy as well as a unique opportunity to contribute to the national biomedical research effort. Study sections review grant applications submitted to the NIH, make recommendations on these applications to the appropriate NIH national advisory council or board, and survey the status of research in their fields of science. These functions are of great value to medical and allied research in this country.
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