Todd Ahern of Hamden, assistant professor of psychology at Quinnipiac University, has received a $70,000 National Alliance for Research and Schizophrenia and Depression Young Investigator Grant from the Brain Behavior Research Foundation.
Ahern and Quinnipiac students will investigate gene-by-environment interactions that could result in important differences in social behaviors. Ahern hypothesizes that early environmental factors, such as differences in early social experience, can interact with genes to shape adult social behaviors.
Using prairie voles, a well-established animal model for studying sociability, Ahern aims to demonstrate how different levels of social care received by offspring interact with their genes for oxytocin and vasopressin receptors, two brain systems involved that regulate sociality.
A NARSAD grant is one of the highest distinctions in the field of mental health research. Many investigators go on to receive larger federal and private grants based on their grant projects. The two-year grants support a broad range of the best ideas in brain and behavior research. Funding is focused on three priority areas to better understand and treat mental illness, aiming toward prevention and ultimately cures: basic research, new technologies and next generation therapies.
Ahern, who joined Quinnipiac in 2011, has a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and biology from Oberlin College and a doctoral degree in neuroscience from Emory University.