Fereshteh S. Nugent, Ph.D.

Fereshteh S. Nugent, Ph.D.

Fereshteh Nugent

Name: Fereshteh S. Nugent, Ph.D.

Department of Primary Appointment: Pharmacology
Position: USU Faculty
Title: Associate Professor (USU)

Affiliated Departments: Neuroscience,

Research Interests:
Synaptic Plasticity of Brain Reward Circuits

Email: fereshteh.nugent@usuhs.edu (link sends e-mail)
Office Phone: (301) 295-3243
Lab Phone: (301) 295-3221
Room: C2129

Department Website
PubMed Listing


Ph.D., Neurophysiology, Tarbiat Modarres University, Tehran, Iran, 2003
Postdoctoral, Neuroscience, Brown University

Nugent Lab

Since the discovery of synaptic plasticity as the cellular correlate of learning and memory, strong overlaps between neural and cellular substrates of learning, drug addiction and stress-related disorders have been recognized. Yet it remains a major challenge to identify the neural circuits and synaptic mechanisms contributing to abnormalities in dopamine signaling and reward dysregulation induced by addictive drugs and adverse early life experiences. The major focus of my laboratory is the elucidation of synaptic mechanisms underlying reward learning, drug addiction and neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, with particular emphasis on the midbrain dopamine system originating from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and its control by the lateral habenula (LHb). Research in our laboratory also explores effects of severe early life stress and traumatic brain injury on synaptic transmission and plasticity of distinct VTA/LHb circuits to identify the neural circuits and molecular mechanisms contributing to abnormalities in reward signaling induced by adverse early life experiences and traumatic brain injuries. The main technique in Nugent laboratory is whole cell patch clamp recording, optogenetics, DREADDs, epigenetic and Western blot techniques. We also use a variety of other complementary techniques such as immunohistochemistry and behavioral techniques in collaboration with other laboratories.

Selected Honors

  • 2019-2023 Nominated and appointed Regular Member for NMB NIH Study Section
  • Associate Editor for Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience
  • Editorial Board Member for Journal of Neuroscience Research
  • 2015 USU Hébert School of Medicine Dean Impact Award for outstanding contributions in research, education and service
  • Selected as a mentor for the 2018 NIDA Summer Research Internship Program
  • 2018 USU Hébert School of Medicine Dean Impact Award for outstanding contributions in research, education and service
  • 2019 USU Hébert School of Medicine Dean Recognition for contributions to Neuroscience Module
  • 2019 USU Hébert School of Medicine Dean Impact Award for outstanding contributions in research, education and service
  • 2019 Recipient of the 2019 Henry C. Wu Award for Excellence in Basic Science at USU

Nugent Lab Members

Postdoctoral Fellows: Dr. Ludovic Langlois, Dr. Sarah Cooper Simmons

Graduate Students: William Flerlage

Lab Alumni: Dr. Matthieu Dacher (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France), Dr. Jayaraj N. Kodangattil (Quest International University, QIUP), Dr. Haifa Kassis, Dr. Michael Authement (NIAAA), Robert Hammack, Dr. Ryan Shepard (NINDS)

Past Summer Interns: William Zhu, Kriza Sy, Aylar Berenji, Karina Aguilar (NIDA internship), Katherine Gourianova, Abby Sachar 

Selected Publications

Shepard RD, Langlois LD, Authement ME, Nugent FS. Histone deacetylase inhibition reduces ventral tegmental area dopamine neuronal hyperexcitability involving AKAP150 signaling following maternal deprivation in juvenile male rats. J Neuro Res., 00:1–11(2020), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32162391/

Shepard R.D., Langlois, L.D., Browne C.A., Berenji A., Lucki L., and Nugent F.S., Ketamine Reverses Lateral Habenula Neuronal Dysfunction and Behavioral Immobility in the Forced Swim Test Following Maternal Deprivation in Late Adolescent Rats. Front. Synaptic Neurosci., 10:39 (2018), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30425634/

Authement M.E., Langlois, L. D., Shepard R.D., Browne C.A., Lucki L., Kassis H., Nugent F.S., A role for corticotrophin releasing factor signaling in the lateral habenula and its modulation by early life stress, Science Signaling, 11(520) (2018), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29511121/

Langlois, L.D. and Nugent F.S. Opiates and plasticity in ventral tegmental area, ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 20;8(9):1830-1838 (2017), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5775906/

Authement M.E., Kodangattil J.N.,Gouty,S., Rusnak, M., Symes A.J., Cox B.M., and Nugent F.S., Histone deacetylase inhibition rescues maternal deprivation-induced GABAergic metaplasticity through restoration of AKAP signaling, Neuron, 86: 1240–1252 (2015), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26050042/

Kodangattil J.N., Dacher M.A., Authement, M.E. and Nugent F.S., Spike timing-dependent plasticity at GABAergic synapses in the Ventral tegmental area. Journal of Physiology, 591.19: 4699-710 (2013), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23897235/  

Dacher, M. A., Gouty, S., Dash, S., Cox, B.M., and Nugent, F.S., A-kinase anchoring protein-calcineurin signaling in long-term depression of GABAergic synapses, Journal of Neuroscience, 33:2650-60 (2013), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23392692/

Nugent, F.S., Penick, E.C., Kauer, J.A., Opiates block long-term potentiation of GABAergic synapses. Nature, 466: 1086-1095 (2007), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17460674/