Dr. Linda Rinaman Awarded National Institutes of Health Grant to Study the Impact of Early Life Experience on Vagal Neurons and Circuits

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The brain and gastrointestinal system mutually communicate through the vagus nerve to influence a wide range of behavioral and physiological functions, including emotional affect, cognition, feeding behavior, digestion, metabolism, and immune function. Dr. Linda Rinaman (FSU Psychology and Neuroscience) and Dr. Pat Levitt (Department of Pediatrics, USC Keck School of Medicine) will apply novel translational approaches in a mouse model of early life stress (ELS) to reveal the transcriptional and connectional features of developing vagal sensory and motor neuronal subtypes. They will then investigate enduring ELS-induced disturbances to vagal neural phenotypes and functions. Experimental outcomes will provide new insight into the role of vagal neurons and circuits in mediating the lifespan impact of ELS on behavior and physiology, with potential clinical implications for vagal nerve-targeted therapies to treat emotional, cognitive, and physiological disorders.