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Faculty, Neuroscience


Dr. Elizabeth Hammock


Emory University, 2005

Associate Professor

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Dr. Hammock is not recruiting a graduate student for Fall of 2023

Research Interests

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We use genetic, molecular, cellular, and behavioral techniques in an evolutionary framework to understand the neurobiological mechanisms of social and affective behaviors in developing and mature mammals. Some Big Questions in our lab:

  • How are social brains built?
  • How does nurturing care-giving impact the developing brain?
  • How does social-emotional neglect affect brain development?
  • What are the mechanics of gene x environment interactions?

The mammalian brain is an experience-expectant organ. During developmental sensitive periods, select gene products permit experience to finely tune the post-natal brain. Our research program focuses on understanding these developmental plasticity genes, their function within neural circuits, and the developmental trajectories that lead to typical and disordered social behavior and emotion regulation. We use rodent model systems to dissect genes and circuits during post-natal development, with a guided interest in the mechanisms by which stress and social experience may alter typical trajectories. We look for causal variables such as individual differences in genetics and environment, and their effects on epigenetics, gene expression, brain circuits, and behavior. Currently, our work focuses on oxytocin and vasopressin in rodent models of experience-dependent developmental plasticity. These studies provide important insights into the neural mechanisms by which these neuropeptides influence social, emotional, and cognitive development. Our goal is to contribute to our understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the interaction between life experience and genetic variation. We pursue these questions in order to broaden our mechanistic knowledge of the development of the social brain. Such knowledge should facilitate the development of more effective intervention strategies used to promote better outcomes in individuals with atypical development such as autism and schizophrenia.

Current Research

  • Do developmentally transient neocortical oxytocin receptors shape experience-dependent development?
  • What is/are the role(s) of oxytocin receptors in the neonatal oronasal cavity?
  • What do neocortical vasopressin 1a receptors do in the neonatal brain?
  • Are there peripheral biomarkers of mental illness/health in development?
  • How does sensitive period social neglect shape neocortical development?

Selected Publications

Newmaster KT, Nolan ZT, Chon U, Vanselow DJ, Weit AR, Tabbaa M, Hidema S, Nishimori K, Hammock EAD, Kim Y. Quantitative cellular-resolution map of the oxytocin receptor in postnatally developing mouse brains. Nat Commun. 2020 Apr 20;11(1):1885. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15659-1. PMID: 32313029; PMCID: PMC7171089.

Day KR, Coleman A, Greenwood MA, Hammock EAD. AVPR1A distribution in the whole C57BL/6J mouse neonate. Sci Rep. 2020 Sep 3;10(1):14512. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-71392-1. PMID: 32884025; PMCID: PMC7471960.

Tabbaa M, Hammock EAD. Orally administered oxytocin alters brain activation and behaviors of pre-weaning mice. Horm Behav. 2020 Feb;118:104613. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2019.104613. Epub 2019 Nov 14. PMID: 31654673; PMCID: PMC7015803.

Greenwood MA, Hammock EAD. Oxytocin Receptor Binding Sites in the Periphery of the Neonatal Prairie Vole. Front Neurosci. 2019 May 24;13:474. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.00474. PMID: 31178680; PMCID: PMC6542991.

Jones CE, Opel RA, Kaiser ME, Chau AQ, Quintana JR, Nipper MA, Finn DA, Hammock EAD, Lim MM. Early-life sleep disruption increases parvalbumin in primary somatosensory cortex and impairs social bonding in prairie voles. Sci Adv. 2019 Jan 30;5(1):eaav5188. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav5188. PMID: 30729165; PMCID: PMC6353622.

Vaidyanathan R, Schaller F, Muscatelli F, Hammock EAD. Colocalization of Oxtr with Prader-Willi syndrome transcripts in the trigeminal ganglion of neonatal mice. Hum Mol Genet. 2020 Jul 29;29(12):2065-2075. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddaa094. PMID: 32420597.

Chu C, Hammock EAD, Joiner TE. Unextracted plasma oxytocin levels decrease following in-laboratory social exclusion in young adults with a suicide attempt history. J Psychiatr Res. 2020 Feb;121:173-181. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.11.015. Epub 2019 Nov 22. PMID: 31835187; PMCID: PMC6939138.

Maldonado PP, Nuno-Perez A, Kirchner JH, Hammock EAD, Gjorgjieva J, Lohmann C. Oxytocin Shapes Spontaneous Activity Patterns in the Developing Visual Cortex by Activating Somatostatin Interneurons. Curr Biol. 2021 Jan 25;31(2):322-333.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.10.028. Epub 2020 Nov 5. PMID: 33157028; PMCID: PMC7846278.

Vaidyanathan R, Hammock EAD. Oxytocin receptor gene loss influences expression of the oxytocin gene in C57BL/6J mice in a sex- and age-dependent manner. J Neuroendocrinol. 2020 Feb;32(2):e12821. doi: 10.1111/jne.12821. Epub 2020 Feb 11. PMID: 31845417; PMCID: PMC7023993.

Chu C, Hom MA, Gallyer AJ, Hammock EAD, Joiner TE. Insomnia predicts increased perceived burdensomeness and decreased desire for emotional support following an in-laboratory social exclusion paradigm. J Affect Disord. 2019 Jan 15;243:432-440. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.09.069. Epub 2018 Sep 18. PMID: 30273881; PMCID: PMC6192247.

Makhanova A, McNulty JK, Eckel LA, Nikonova L, Bartz JA, Hammock EAD. CD38 is associated with bonding-relevant cognitions and relationship satisfaction over the first 3 years of marriage. Sci Rep. 2021 Feb 3;11(1):2965. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-82307-z. PMID: 33536489; PMCID: PMC7859203.


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