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Faculty, Neuroscience

Dr. Elizabeth Hammock

Emory University, 2005

Assistant Professor

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Dr. Hammock will be accepting a graduate student for Fall 2020 admission.

Research Interests

Undergraduate students interested in research opportunities in the Hammock Lab should fill out this survey

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

Greenwood MA, Hammock EA, Oxytocin receptor binding sites in the periphery of the neonatal mouse. PLoS One. 2017 Feb 24;12(2):e0172904. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172904. eCollection 2017. PubMed PMID: 28235051; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5325587.

Vaidyanathan R, Hammock EA, Oxytocin receptor dynamics in the brain across development and species. Dev Neurobiol. 2017 Feb;77(2):143-157. doi: 10.1002/dneu.22403. Epub 2016 Jun 6. Review. PubMed PMID: 27273834.

Hammock EA, Developmental Perspectives on Oxytocin and Vasopressin.. Neuropsychopharmacology. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.120. [Epub ahead of print]. (2014).

Roth TL, Raineki C, Salstein L, Perry R, Sullivan-Wilson TA, Sloan A, Lalji B, Hammock EA, Wilson DA, Levitt P, Okutani F, Kaba H, Sullivan RM. Neurobiology of secure infant attachment and attachment despite adversity: a mouse model.. Genes Brain Behav. 12(7):673-80. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12067. Epub. (2013).

Hammock EA, Law CS, Levitt P. Vasopressin eliminates the expression of familiar odor bias in neonatal female mice through V1aR.. Horm Behav. 63(2):352-60. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.12.006. Ep. (2013).

Hammock EA, Levitt P. Oxytocin receptor ligand binding in embryonic tissue and postnatal brain development of the C57BL/6J mouse.. Front Behav Neurosci. 7:195. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2013.00195. (2013).

Hammock EA, Veenstra-VanderWeele J, Yan Z, Kerr TM, Morris M, Anderson GM, Carter CS, Cook EH, Jacob S. Examining autism spectrum disorders by biomarkers: example from the oxytocin and serotonin systems.. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 51(7):712-721.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2012.04.010. (2012).

Hammock EA, Levitt P. Modulation of parvalbumin interneuron number by developmentally transient neocortical vasopressin receptor 1a (V1aR).. Neuroscience. 222:20-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.07.025. (2012).

Hammock EA, Levitt P. Developmental Expression Mapping of a Gene Implicated in Multiple Neurodevelopmental Disorders, A2bp1 (Fox1). Developmental Neuroscience. 33: 64-74. (2011)

Hammock EA, Eagleson KL, Barlow S, Earls LR, Miller DM 3rd, Levitt P. Homologs of genes expressed in Caenorhabditis elegans GABAergic neurons are also found in the developing mouse forebrain.. Neural Dev. 5:32. doi: 10.1186/1749-8104-5-32. (2010).

Hammock EA, Young LJ. Microsatellite instability generates diversity in brain and sociobehavioral traits.. Science. 10;308(5728):1630-4. (2005).


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