Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders

The mission of the Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders (BNPD) is to conduct basic and translational research to better understand the neurobiological mechanisms underlying behaviors relevant to developmental and psychiatric conditions, such as autism spectrum disorders, anxiety-related disorders, depression and addiction vulnerability. BNPD faculty members use state-of-the-art neural circuit level approaches to make rapid discoveries in rodent models that can then be translated to nonhuman primate (NHP) models and humans with the ultimate goal of translating these discoveries into novel treatment strategies to improve mental health. Techniques division researchers use include electrophysiology, epigenetics, chemogenetics (DREADDs), optogenetics, and CRISPR genome editing.

Larry Young, PhD, leads this division. He is best known for his research focused on pair bonding in rodents and has made numerous seminal discoveries unlocking the neural circuitry of social relationships. His work provides insights into the mechanisms underlying social bonding, the consequences of social loss and empathy. These insights are guiding the development of drugs like oxytocin to improve social functioning in psychiatric disorders, such as autism.

The division is also home to the Center for Translational Social Neuroscience and the Silvio O. Conte Center for Oxytocin and Social Cognition, which provide resources to facilitate research on the neurobiology of social behavior across Emory. These centers are actively involved in enhancing neuroscience outreach in the Atlanta area.

Division scientists serve as intellectual resources for 1) neural circuit analysis and manipulations, and 2) animal models of psychiatric disorders for other scientists within the Emory Primate Center, as well as regional, national and international collaborators.