My research is focused on understanding the brain pathways involved in psychiatric disease. Much of my work is focused on the hypocretin/orexin neuropeptide system, which we believe to hold significant therapeutic potential for the treatment of diseases such as addiction and depression. I use a combination of behavioral, anatomical, chemo/optogenetic and electrophysiological approaches to study these systems with the view of guiding and informing translational outcomes. Full list of publications; Google scholar; ResearchGate.
My overarching research focus is investigating the photic regulation of neuropsychological disorders. Presently, I am investigating the role of the locus coeruleus in light deprivation-induced depressive-like behavior. To do this I am combining behavioral tasks, traditional anatomical tracing techniques and chemogenetic approaches.
Dr. Amy Kohtz earned her B.A. in Psychology and her Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from the State University of New York at Albany where she studied sex differences in reward behaviors under the guidance of Dr. Cheryl Frye. She completed her Ph.D. in molecular
mechanisms of learning and memory under the guidance of Dr. Cristina Alberini at New York University. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Rutgers University Brain Health Institute working in the lab of Dr. Gary Aston-Jones. Her research interests include sex differences in drug-seeking, the role of hippocampus monoamines in drug addiction, and the effects of oxytocin on early abstinence. In her spare time she enjoys playing with her dog, video games, and cooking.
Jennifer Catuzzi Fragale, PhD
Jennifer earned a B.S. in Molecular Biology at Montclair State University and a PhD in Neuroscience at Rutgers University where she studied the role of cognitive flexibility and motivation in the development of anxiety disorders under the guidance of Dr. Kevin Beck and Dr. Kevin Pang. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers University Brain Health Institute working in the lab of Dr. Gary Aston-Jones. Her research focuses on the role of orexin in opioid addition.
Mark A Presker Jr., MA
Mark is a PhD student in the Aston-Jones Lab where his research focuses on the locus coeruleus and its role in modulating attention and sensation. His current studies combine electrophysiology and chemogenetics to monitor and alter the activity of the locus coeruleus in animals exposed to drugs of abuse such as cocaine and morphine in order to understand its contribution to addiction related behaviors. He was recently awarded an NRSA from NIDA to support this research titled “Stimulus control of attention in cocaine addiction: role of locus coeruleus.” He received my Master of Arts from the Department of Psychology at UNC Chapel hill where he investigated the role of endocannabinoid receptors in the reconsolidation of cocaine-associated contextual memories. In the future, he hopes to pursue questions relating to attention systems in the brain and how these systems are altered in conditions such as drug addiction and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
Nupur is the manager of Dr. Gary Aston-Jones lab. She received her Bachelor's degree in Biology from Rutgers University, Newark. After graduation, she worked in the labs of Dr. James Tepper and Dr. Elizabeth Abercrombie at the Center for Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers, Newark, where she studied basal ganglia circuits to better understand the circuits and firing patterns involved in Parkinson's and Huntington's disease.