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Consequences of Naturalistic Serotonin Deficiency for Suicide-Related Social Endophenotypes in Mice

2013 Standard Research Grant
Amount Awarded: $89,695
Focus Area: Neurobiological Studies

Jacob Jacobsen, Ph.D.
Duke University

Inside the Research

Bio: Dr. Jacobsen received his doctorate from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark in 2004. He is currently a Senior Research Associate at Duke University.

Research Categories: Neurobiological studies; brain functioning studies

Abstract: Suicidal behavior has been shown to be related to differences in the neurotransmitter serotonin as well as to the way people experience and respond to stress.  Response to environmental stressors also contributes to suicidal behavior.  This study aims to tease apart the roles of biology and environment.  Animal models are often used to overcome the fact that we cannot directly adjust genes or neurotransmitter levels in the brain and examine the effects on behavior. Specific human behaviors associated with suicide such as aggression and decreased social connection, as well as response to stress, have been considered to represent suicide risk in mice.  Dr. Jacobson will compare wild type mice with mice with low serotonin levels and observe for behavioral changes related to aggression and impaired affiliative skills.  Mice will be raised under distinct social and environmental conditions.  They will be exposed to significant stress using a social defeat stress strategy and the two groups will be assessed and compared with regard to aggressive and social behaviors (aggression, affiliation, sociability) in adulthood.  The aim is to distinguish between the contributions of serotonin and stress to behaviors consistent with suicidal behavior.

Impact: This study will identify the contributions of serotonin and stress to suicidal behavior in order to develop strategies for therapeutic intervention.