The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

Neuroscience Faculty and Research

Faculty and their research interests are separately grouped according to their location at either the Hershey Medical Center or the University Park campus. To see more information about an individual faculty member, click on his/her name.

Faculty with Research at Hershey and University Park


Robert L Sainburg
Professor of Kinesiology
Professor of Neurology
Director of Center for Movement Science and Technology

Neural mechanisms underlying control of multijoint arm movements in humans.

Steven Schiff
Director, Penn State Center for Neural Engineering
Brush Chair Professor of Engineering
Professor of Neurosurgery
Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics

Neural engineering, neurosurgery, epilepsy, Parkinsons Disease, wave mechanics, brain machine interfaces, EEG, electrical fields, and control theory.

Hershey Medical Center Faculty


Alistair Barber
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Cellular and Molecular Physiology

Neurodegeneration in diabetic retinopathy. This project studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neurodegeneration in diabetic retinopathy, a common complication of diabetes that can lead to vision loss. The lab examines how changes in visual function may be explained by degeneration in the synapses and neurons of the retina in diabetic animal models.

Colin Barnstable
Professor and Chair, Neural & Behavioral Sciences
Co-Chair of the Graduate Program in Neuroscience

How interacting networks of transcription factors and signal transduction molecules guide the development of precursor/stem cells into mature neurons. Role of these networks in neurodegenerative diseases. Factors that can act as neuroprotective agents.

Melvin Billingsley
Professor of Pharmacology

Mechanisms of calcium-induced signal transduction in brain, focusing on calmodulin-mediated enzymes. Isolation and characterization of novel, neuron-specific genes, with emphasis on those involved in neurotoxic actions of various agents.

Edward Bixler
Professor of Psychiatry
Vice-Chair of Research

Patterns and mechanisms of sleep.

Kirsteen Browning
Professor, Neural and Behavioral Health

James Connor
Distinguished Professor and Vice-Chair Department of Neurosurgery

Iron transport and toxicity in neurodegenerative diseases/oxidative cell injury.

John Ellis
Professor of Psychiatry & Pharmacology
Director of Molecular Neuropharmacology Laboratory

Mechanistic and molecular investigations of activation and allosteric regulation of G protein-coupled receptors.

Paul Eslinger
Professor of Neurology

Neural substrates of human cognition and learning.

Jidong Fang
Associate Professor of Psychiatry

Regulation and function of sleep.

Willard Freeman
Associate Professor of Pharmacology
Director, Functional Genomics Core Facility

Patricia Grigson
Professor of Neural and Behavioral Sciences

Neural basis of reward comparison.

Andras Hajnal
Professor of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Surgery

Neural Regulation of Eating: Taste and reward functions in obesity, diabetes and following gastric bypass surgery.

Gregory Holmes
Associate Professor, Neural and Behavioral Science

Dr. Holmes research focuses upon derangements in autonomic nervous system reflexes following traumatic brain or spinal cord injury. His laboratory combines clinically relevant experimental models of brain and spinal cord injury with physiological, neurochemical and immunohistochemical techniques. Particular emphasis in his laboratory has been placed on gastrointestinal and reproductive changes after injury.

Xuemei Huang
Professor of Neurology

Robert Levenson
Professor of Pharmacology

Regulation of dopaminergic neurotransmission; links between dopamine signaling and drug addiction and reward.

Richard Mailman
Professor and College of Medicine Distinguished Senior Scholar

Patricia McLaughlin
Professor of Neural and Behavioral Sciences
Director, Graduate Program in Anatomy

Growth factors and receptors in brain and heart development and cancer.

Ann Ouyang
Professor of Medicine

The role of the brain-gut axis in gastrointestinal disorders. Nociceptive pathways from the gastrointestinal tract.

Charles Palmer
Professor of Pediatrics

Perinatal hypoxic ischemic brain injury. Inhibition of microglial activation. Pain and stress in the newborn infant.

Chester Ray
Professor of Medicine, and Cellular and Molecular Physiology

Vestibular regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, exercise and autonomic function.

Victor Ruiz-Velasco
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology

Study of mechanisms by which second messengers, particularly G proteins, modulate voltage-dependent N-type Ca2+ channels following G protein-coupled receptor activation.

Zachary Simmons
Professor of Neurology

Pathogenetic mechanisms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Nutrition in ALS.

Ian Simpson
Professor of Neural and Behavioral Sciences

Regulation of cerebral nutrient transport and metabolism, and their role in stroke.

Sean Stocker
Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology

Neural control of the circulation and cardiovascular system in salt-sensitive and obesity-induced hypertension

Thyagarajan Subramanian
Professor of Neurology and Neural and Behavioral Sciences
Director, Movement Disorders Program

Neural Transplantation and gene therapy for neurodegenerative disorders. Basal ganglia pathophysiology. Stem cell biology and immunology of transplantation. Preclinical and clinical therapeutics in movement disorders.

Richard Tenser
Professor of Neurology, and Microbiology and Immunology

Latent and slow virus infections of the nervous system; multiple sclerosis.

Joyce Tombran-Tink
Professor of Neural and Behavioral Science

Renato Alberto Travagli
Professor of Neural and Behavioral Sciences

Central nervous system control of cellular and synaptic functions of the automatic nervous system in health and disease (stress and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract).

Emmy Truckenmiller
Assistant Professor of Microbiology

Neuro-endocrine modulation of dendritic cell function (maturation, antigen presentation, cytokine production, migration) in the initial steps of T cell-mediated anti-viral/tumor immunity.

Kent Vrana
Elliot S. Vesell Professor and Chair of Pharmacology

Hanspeter Waldner

Determine the mechanisms that maintain tolerance or induce T cell responses to self antigens, resulting in resistance or susceptibility to autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis or Type 1 diabetes.

Judith Weisz
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Neural integration of reproduction: steroids and cytochrome P-450.

Ian Zagon
Distinguished Professor of Neural and Behavioral Science
Director, Program on Education in Human Structure

Peptides and receptors in development, cancer, cell renewal, wound healing, angiogenesis, cornea, neurodegeneration, diabetes and Crohns Disease.

University Park Faculty


Kevin Alloway
Co-Director, Graduate Program in Neuroscience
Professor, Neural and Behavioral Sciences
Distinguished Educator

Neural basis of sensorimotor integration neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, optogenetics

Peter Arnett
Professor of Psychology
Director of Clinical Training

My research focuses broadly on clinical neuropsychology, specifically with a focus on neurocognitive and emotional consequences of sports-related concussion in collegiate athletes. I also study neurocognitive and emotional functioning in persons with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Paul Bartell
Associate Professor of Avian Biology

Neurobiology of biological clocks; the role of circadian clocks and circannual timers in regulating physiology and behavior.

Sheri Berenbaum
Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics

Development and neuroendocrine basis of human sex-typed cognition and social behavior.

Victoria Braithwaite
Professor of Fisheries and Biology
Co-Director, the Center for Brain, Behavior and Cognition

Brain and behavior responses to stressors during different stages of development. How these promote or inhibit neurogenesis and support increased behavioral resilience

Orfeu M Buxton
Professor of Biobehavioral Health

Causes and consequences of sleep deficiency.

Douglas Cavener
Dean of Penn State's Eberly College of Science

Regulation of central nervous system functions through control of protein synthesis and translation initiation.

Sonia Cavigelli
Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health

Influence of temperament and social status on stress and health; individual differences in stress and health in the natural environment; development of temperament/personality.

Anne-Marie Chang
Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health and Nursing

Genetic analysis of sleep and circadian rhythms, and interactions that influence cardio-metabolic function in humans; effects of light on sleep and circadian physiology, and neurobehavioral performance.

Gong Chen
Professor of Biology
Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences

Molecular and cellular mechanism of learning and memory, synapse formation and synaptic plasticity.

John Collins
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics

Algorithms of neural computation for learning and memory; relationship between neuronal and behavioral phenomena.

Nancy Dennis
Associate Professor of Psychology

My research focuses on elucidating the cognitive and neural mechanisms that support learning and memory in young and older adults.

Michele Diaz
Associate Professor of Psychology & Linguistics
Director of Human Imaging: Social, Life, & Engineering Sciences Imaging Center

Age-related differences in language; the relationships between cognition, behavior, and the brain.

Patrick James Drew
Huck Distinguished Associate Professor of Neural Engineering and Neurosurgery
Depts. of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Neurosurgery, and Biomedical Engineering

Control and development of the cerebral blood flow, neurovascular coupling.

Chris Engeland
Asst. Professor, Biobehavioral Health and Nursing

1) How stress, age, gender, and hormones affect inflammation / health. 2) Biomarker feasibility for predicting health outcomes.

Lisa Gatzke-Kopp
Professor of Human Development

My research expertise and interests are in the area of developmental neuroscience of psychopathology. I am particularly interested in how children develop behavior problems such as aggression, hyperactivity, and substance abuse. Research has shown that such problems likely evolve when innate vulnerability interacts with environmental stressors. Understanding the neurobiological dysfunction that contributes to this vulnerability informs the identification of experiential and environmental factors that exacerbate or ameliorate risk. Identification of these factors positions researchers, and eventually policy makers, to implement changes in the environment that may alter these trajectories and improve developmental outcomes.

Charles Geier
Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies

Adolescent neurodevelopment and risky decision making; emergence of substance use; fMRI methods

Rick Gilmore
Associate Professor of Psychology
Director of Human Imaging, SLEIC

The cognitive neuroscience of perception, memory, and action in infancy and early childhood.

Santhosh Girirajan
Associate Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Associate Professor of Anthropology

To understand the genetic basis of neurodevelopmental disorders

Bruce Gluckman
Associate Director, Penn State Center for Neural Engineering
Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery

The dynamics of neural systems, how group dynamics form or emerge from the coupled dynamics of individual units, and how to measure and interact with these systems.

Jinger Gottschall
Associate Professor of Kinesiology

Studying walking and running by combining the disciplines of cardiovascular physiology, neuromuscular physiology, and mechanical engineering.

Thomas Gould
Jean Phillips Shibley Professor of Biobehavioral Health
Head, Department of Biobehavioral Health

Uses genetic, pharmacological, behavioral, and molecular biological techniques to study the neurobiology of learning and memory and the effects of addiction on them

John E Hayes
Associate Professor of Food Science
Director of Sensory Evaluation Center

Psychophysics of taste and flavor perception; role of genetic variation on food preferences

Frank Hillary
Associate Professor of Psychology

A primary focus of my research is to examine the effects of brain injury and disease on functional brain organization. Neural networks have been shown to be quite flexible, or plastic and the work in my laboratory focuses on differentiating the plasticity observed in healthy adults (e.g., changes in a network associated with learning a new skill) from plasticity in networks specifically related to pathology. To do so, we use EEG and MRI-based methods to examine how plasticity is expressed in both healthy and disrupted neural systems during tasks of simple information processing and memory. Much of this research focuses on two distinct forms of europathology in humans: traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis. Imaging methods provide non-invasive measures of physiology and methods used in my laboratory include proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy to examine neurometabolism, diffusion tensor imaging to examine structural white matter changes, and high density EEG and functional MRI to examine behavioral deficits evident during stimulation. Currently, investigations are being carried out with collaborators in the Departments of Radiology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, New Jersey (UMDNJ-NJMS) and the Departments of Radiology and Neurology at the Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA.

Vasant Gajanan Honavar
Professor and Edward Frymoyer Chair of Information Sciences and Technology

Statistical machine learning algorithms for predictive modeling from big data (large, distributed, semantically disparate data, partially specified data, richly structured (sequence, relational, network) data); Causal inference from experimental and observational data; Information Integration (logical, probabilistic, and network-based approaches); Characterization and prediction of protein-protein, protein-RNA, and protein-DNA interactions, protein sub-cellular localization, B-cell and T-cell epitopes, and other functionally important sites of protein; Automated protein structure and function annotation; Modeling and inference of biological networks; Comparative analyses of biological networks (network alignment); Biomedical Ontologies; Integrative modeling of patients from electronic medical records, genetic, physiological, environmental and lifestyle data for personalized interventions.

Jun Huang
Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics

Explores nanoscience and nanotechnology at the interface of physics, materials, engineering and biology.

Vladimir Itskov
Associate Professor of Mathematics

Theoretical and mathematical Neuroscience: neural networks and learning, neural codes.

Timothy Jegla
Associate Professor of Biology

We are interested in understanding how ion channels control signaling in the nervous system. We focus on potassium channel-mediated control of firing threshold and ionic mechanisms involved in the generation and processing of sensory potentials. Our research relies on a combination of mouse genetics, electrophysiology, cell biology and compound screening approaches.

Dezhe Jin
Associate Professor of Physics

Computational models of neural basis of motor control and learning; theoretical analysis of biological neural networks.

Helen Marie Kamens
Assistant Professor, Biobehavioral Health

Identification of genetic mechanisms that contribute to complex behaviors with a special emphasis on alcohol and tobacco use.

Laura Klein
Professor of Biobehavioral Health

Biobehavioral effects of stress on drug abuse; sex differences in neuroendocrine and behavioral stress responses; nicotine regulation of stress reactivity.

Reuben Kraft
Shuman Assistant Prof. of Mechanical Engineering

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, approximately 1.7 million people, on average, sustain a traumatic brain injury annually. During the last few decades, brain neurotrauma biomechanics has been an active area of research involving medical clinicians and a broad range of neuroscientists and engineers. In addition, advances and fast growth of human connectomics continues to reveal new insights into the damaged brain. With increasing advances in computational methods and high performance computing, we see the need and the exciting possibility to merge brain neurotrauma biomechanics and human connectomics science to form a new area of investigation - connectome neurotrauma mechanics. For neurotrauma, the idea is simple - inform human structural connectome analysis using physics-based predictions of biomechanical brain injury. If successful, this technique may be further used to inform human functional connectome analysis, thus providing a new tool to help understand the pathophysiology of traumatic brain injury.

Zhi-Chun Lai
Professor of Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Chair, Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Cell and Developmental Biology

Signal Transduction, Growth Control, and Cancer Genetics

Ping Li
Professor of Psychology/Linguistics/Information Sciences
Co-Director, the Center for Brain, Behavior and Cognition

My research aims at understanding the relationships among language, brain, and culture.

Aimin Liu
Associate Professor of Biology

The regulation of cell fate and polarity in mammalian central nervous system and sensory organs.

Lyle N Long
Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering, Bioengineering, and Mathematics
Director, Graduate Minor Program in Computational Science

Cognitive robotics (using ACT-R, SOAR, or SS-RICS) for autonomous vehicles, and spiking neural networks and learning.

Bernhard Luscher
Professor of Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Psychiatry
Director, Center for Molecular Investigation of Neurological Disorders (CMIND)

Development and regulation of GABAergic inhibitory synapses; neural substrates regulating anxiety and cognition.

Yingwei Mao
Assistant Professor of Biology

My lab studies the mechanisms that regulate neurogenesis using cellular and mouse models. In the short term, I would like to focus my research program in determining how abnormal neural progenitor cell (NPC) proliferation and differentiation may lead to mental illnesses. My long-term plan is to use the reagents, experimental systems, mouse models that I develop to further screen novel drugs that can reverse the behavior phenotype in our mouse model and eventually benefit patients with psychiatric disorders.

Kristina Neely
Assistant Professor, Kinesiology

Dr. Neely investigates how brain structure and function, cognition, and personality traits influence the planning and control of reaching and grasping movements.

Richard Ordway
Professor of Molecular Neuroscience and Genetics

Molecular analysis of synaptic mechanisms in Drosophila.

Frank Ritter
Professor of Information Sciences and Technology

Modeling effects of stress and behaviour moderators on cognition within cognitive architectures.

Melissa Rolls
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Director, Center for Cellular Dynamics
Chair, Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Biosciences program

The Rolls lab investigates the cellular basis of neuronal polarity and neuronal responses to injury including degeneration and regeneration.

Chaleece Sandberg
Asst. Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders

Exploring cortical reorganization related to successful therapy for acquired language disorders, and how to enhance therapy outcomes.

Kathyrn Suzanne Scherf
Assistant Professor, Psychology

Development of face and object representation in typically developing children and children with developmental disorders

Semyon Slobounov
Professor of Kinesiology

Psychophysiology of human movement.

Moriah L Szpara
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Neurovirology, genomics of pathogen variation, neuron-virus relationships

David Vandenbergh
Professor of Biobehavioral Health
Associate Director of the Penn State Institute of the Neurosciences

Genetics of addiction in human populations and its neurobiological basis in animal models.

Diane Williams
Professor, Head, and Program Director, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Characterization of cognition and language in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental language disorders with variations in contextual and processing demands

Stephen Wilson
Associate Professor of Psychology

Addictive behavior, with a specific focus on cigarette smoking

Nanyin Zhang
Professor of Bioengineering

Investigate the pathophysiology of brain disorders using neuroimaging, behavioral and optogenetic methods.