Matthew Cooper is an assistant professor in the Psychology Department. His research program focuses on understanding how social conflict stress affects the brain and alters behavior. Cooper recently received a 2-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate neural mechanisms that mediate resiliency to stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a 2-year NIH R21 grant for $200,000, which began December 1, 2012. The grant is titled, “Understanding neural circuits that control resistance to social stress.”
This research will help develop new treatments for stress-sensitive mental illnesses. Exposure to stressful events is a key factor in the etiology of several affective disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Importantly, not all individuals exposed to stressful events develop stress-related mental illness, and there is considerable interest in what makes some individuals vulnerable and others resilient. Cooper’s proposal investigates the mechanisms controlling resistance to social stress using a social defeat model in Syrian hamsters, called conditioned defeat. Research such as this will improve our understanding of the neural mechanisms that mediate resiliency, and ultimately should lead to improved treatment options for stress-related mental illness.