Fereshteh Nugent, Ph.D.

Fereshteh S. Nugent, Ph.D.

Name: Fereshteh S. Nugent, Ph.D.

USU Department of Primary Appointment: 
Pharmacology & Molecular Therapeutics
USU faculty
Faculty Rank: 
Associate Professor
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD

Research Interests:
Synaptic plasticity, Reward Pathway, Addiction Neuorpsychiatric Disorders
Novel Anidepressants

Office Phone: 
(301) 295-3243


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., L. 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
Graduate Students: Ryan Shepard
Lab Alumni: Dr. Matthieu Dacher (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France), Dr. Jayaraj N. Kodangattil, Dr. Haifa Kassis, Dr. Michael Authement (NIAAA) and Steven Dash