Department of Psychology Colloquium Series

Psychology Colloquium Series Presents…

Monday, April 29th, 11:00 AM

ACAD 1401

Undergraduate Data Blitz:

Daniel Hernandez Altamirano

Wachholtz Lab

Cognitive Performance Differences Among CU Denver Students: A RCT Using Caffeine


Brooke Charbonneau
Watson Lab
Understanding the Impact of Fascination on Creative Problem Solving


Nicolette Moya

Greenwood Lab

Exercise Augments Fear Extinction through a Mechanism Involving mTOR Signaling


Monica Peniche

Allen Lab

Challenges of Being a Married Female Service Member


Charles A. Hoeffer, PhD
Associate Professor

Institute for Behavioral Genetics
Department of Integrative Physiology
University of Colorado, Boulder

Monday, February 25th, 11:00 AM

ACAD 1401

 Dissecting isoform-specific roles for Akt in synaptic plasticity and behavior

 Neurological disorders impacting cognition and memory, such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, afflict millions of Americans. The search for factors involved in neurological disorders has identified disruptions in a fundamental neuronal process, synaptic plasticity, in nearly all pervasive neurological disorders. Synaptic plasticity, widely held to be the cellular substrate of memory, describes the specific modification of neuronal connections in response to experience. Thus, altered mechanisms controlling this process may be causal in the pathophysiology of patients suffering neurological dysfunction. One mechanism thought to play an important part in synaptic plasticity, with an increasingly important role in schizophrenia, intellectual disability and neurodegenerative diseases, is the AKT signaling pathway. Three isoforms of Akt (Akt1/PKBα, Akt2/PkBβ, and Akt3/PKBγ) are expressed in the brain, and they display some overlapping function but are also known to have distinct physiological roles in organs including the brain. The role played by the different Akt isoforms in synaptic plasticity processes is unknown. This is an important problem to overcome because improved understanding of Akt function in synaptic mechanisms, especially the role of the different isoforms, will allow for improved diagnoses and therapies aimed at treating neurological disorders. Therefore, the main hypothesis driving this research in my lab is that Akt isoforms are differentially recruited for neuromolecular signaling underlying synaptic plasticity, cognition, and memory formation. To address this hypothesis, we combine approaches using electrophysiological, biochemical, and behavioral analyses for examining Akt function in synaptic plasticity, protein synthesis and behavioral performance in mouse models of neurological disorders. We have identified Akt isoform specific patterns of expression as well as isoform specific roles for AKT activity in synaptic function and behavior. By defining Akt isoform-specific regulation of synaptic plasticity and cognition, our approach will provide new insight into Akt-dependent mechanisms affected in neurological diseases and psychiatric disorders associated with cognitive impairments.


January 28, 2019

Michael P. Saddoris, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
University of Colorado Boulder

Fixing what's broken: Neurobiological and behavioral interventions to repair drug-associated impairments

Substance abuse disorders are particularly noted for their devastating toll on health and well-being of the individual, where cycles of bingeing and relapse can take control of behavior. However, these chronic experiences with drugs of abuse alter brain function in ways that create persistent impairments in cognitive function that can last months (or longer) after the last drug-taking episode. These impairments can affect basic features of learning and decision making, which may in turn contribute to continued cycles of relapse. In this talk, I will use rat models of drug taking to identify the specific neural circuits impacted by repeated cocaine self-administration and methods we are developing in the lab to prevent or even reverse these impairments. Currently, our lab has been using multiple intervention strategies, including neural circuit manipulations of mesolimbic pathways and behavioral interventions using controllable stressors, both of which have shown promise in restoring normal function to these animals. These findings may provide potential translational therapeutic value in combatting addiction disorders, while also providing insight into the normal function of limbic system circuitry.


11:00 AM Monday, 11/26

Academic (Student Commons) building Room 1401 (Boettcher Foundation conference room)

Dr. Kristin Kilbourn, PhD, Associate Professor

Clinical Health Psychology, University of Colorado Denver


Alaina L. Carr, MA, Doctoral Candidate

Clinical Health Psychology, University of Colorado Denver


David Avram, MA, Doctoral Candidate

Clinical Health Psychology, University of Colorado Denver

The psychosocial impact of caregiving for a loved one with cancer: Examples of innovative interventions to manage caregiver distress

Family caregivers often assume the role of caregiving with little or no preparation. Their roles may vary from providing emotional support and companionship, assisting with medication administration and medical care, providing physical support, and overseeing communication with friends and family. Over time, the demand and complexities of these various tasks can lead to caregiver distress and burnout. As the population of informal caregivers continues to grow, there is a need for a greater understanding of the unique needs of these individuals as well as the development and testing of evidenced-based interventions targeted towards those at a high risk for poorer outcomes.  This presentation will present a brief overview of caregiver research as well as examples of our current work with an emphasis on psychosocial interventions aimed at decreasing distress and improving quality of life in those providing care to cancer patients.