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 and Drug Addiction

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


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

Synaptic plasticity of the Reward Pathway

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 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 on synaptic transmission and plasticity of distinct VTA dopamine circuits to identify the neural circuits and molecular mechanisms contributing to abnormalities in dopamine signaling induced by adverse early life experiences. To achieve these goals, we use a combination of immunohistochemical, biochemical, epigenetic, electrophysiological and behavioral techniques. We expect that identifying novel epigenetic mechanisms in the regulation of synaptic plasticity and memory formation in midbrain dopamine circuits will point to new directions in pharmacotherapy for drug addiction and stress-related disorders.

Selected Publications

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), Featured as the cover story

Summary: http://stke.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/sigtrans;11/520/eaan6480?ijkey=HdDvVlA/ZsP76&keytype=ref&siteid=sigtrans

Abstract: http://stke.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sigtrans;11/520/eaan6480?ijkey=HdDvVlA/ZsP76&keytype=ref&siteid=sigtrans

 Reprint: http://stke.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/sigtrans;11/520/eaan6480?ijkey=HdDvVlA/ZsP76&keytype=ref&siteid=sigtrans

Full text: http://stke.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/sigtrans;11/520/eaan6480?ijkey=HdDvVlA/ZsP76&keytype=ref&siteid=sigtrans

Langlois, L.D. and Nugent F.S. Opiates and plasticity in ventral tegmental area, Invited Review, ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 20;8(9):1830-1838 (2017)

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)

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)

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)

Nugent, F.S., Penick, E.C., Kauer, J.A., Opiates block long-term potentiation of GABAergic synapses. Nature, 466: 1086-1095 (2007)

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

Graduate Students: Ryan Shepard, Robert Hammack

Summer Interns: Karina Aguilar (NIDA internship), Katherine Gourianova, Abby Sachar

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)

Past Summer Interns: William Zhu, Kriza Sy