Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics, College of Medicine, TAMHSC

Michelle Hook, Ph.D.I have been studying behavior in laboratory animals for more than 20 years, and specifically studying neurotrauma (the spinal contusion model of injury) for 15 years. The primary focus of my research has been on recovery of function after injury. As part of this research, I have conducted pioneering studies of addiction after injury, which stemmed further interest in co-morbid conditions such as depression and pain. Most of my training has been in psychology departments, and I am constantly reminded of the salience of psychological well-being and its potential role in recovery. As a result, I have developed a behavioral ethogram for the assessment of depression in the rodent contusion model. This model is unique as we behaviorally phenotype depressed subjects based on a cluster of symptoms (rather than simply comparing performances across treatment groups), an approach that is akin to diagnoses in the clinical population. Using this approach we are able to identify depressed subjects, independent of experimental treatment groups, and assess physiological and molecular changes associated with depression per se. I have collaborated with Dr. Sohrabji and her laboratory, for example, to assess serum, brain and spinal expression levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in depressed and not depressed SCI rats. We have shown that a depressive-phenotype is associated with increased serum levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, increased heart rates and decreased heart rate variability; mirroring the molecular and physiological changes associated with depression in humans. We will use this powerful model system to assess depression following stroke, in the submitted proposal. My laboratory is very experienced at performing the behavioral and molecular assays outlined. My experience is highlighted in the following publications.


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