Department of Psychology Colloquium Series

Psychology Colloquium Series Presents…

Monday, November 27th, 11:00am via Zoom

Dr. Kevin Crombie
Department of Kinesiology
University of Alabama

The influence of aerobic exercise on fear extinction learning and decision making in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Potential implications for enhancing treatment efficacy

For more information, Zoom links, or to meet with speakers, please contact Ben Greenwood (

Monday, October 30th, 11:00 a.m. via Zoom

Dr. Charles Grob

Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Director, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
Investigator, The Lundquist Institute

Psychedelics for Human Suffering: A New Paradigm for the 21st Century

This talk will provide an overview of the pharmacology, ethnobotany, history, range of effects, therapeutic potential, safety concerns, clinical research record, changing legal status and ethical concerns of psychedelics. Particular attention will be directed at research involving the use of psilocybin in the treatment of demoralization and anxiety in individuals facing the end-of-life.



11:00 AM Monday, April 24th, 2023

In person; ACAD 1401

Undergraduate Data Blitz!


11:00 AM Monday, March 27th, 2023

In person; ACAD 1401


Dr. Carly Leonard

Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology

CU Denver


Why dwell on it? An investigation of individual differences in eye movement behavior



March 28, 2022

Elizabeth Allen, PhD


Department of Psychology

University of Colorado Denver 

Understanding and Supporting Intimate Relationships for U.S. Soldiers

Dr. Elizabeth Allen in the Department of Psychology at CU Denver has focused her research over the past 15 years on projects focused on testing a marriage education program in the U.S. Army and exploring connections between military stressors, individual mental health, and relationship/family dynamics. In this presentation, she will share some highlights of what she and her colleagues have learned.


February 28, 2022

Justin Rhodes, PhD

Department of Psychology

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The contribution of muscle contractions to exercise-induced hippocampal plasticity

It is now well established that physical activity is crucial to maintaining cognitive health especially during aging.  Dramatic effects of various forms of exercise training have been documented throughout the brain but especially in the hippocampus, a brain region important for learning, memory and coping with stress.   But how exercise increases plasticity in the hippocampus remains unknown.  In this talk I will review recent studies in my lab that isolated the contribution of muscle contractions to hippocampal plasticity outcomes.  We discovered a specific effect whereby muscle contractions release factors that cause astrocytes via the blood brain barrier to contract and proliferate. The contractility of astrocytes in the hippocampus then releases factors that inhibit neuronal firing and contribute to facilitated maturation neuronal networks as characterized by synchronous firing of action potentials.  The muscle-brain axis may hold the key to restorative mental health. 


January 31, 2022

Carillon Skirzynski, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Bidwell Lab

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

University of Colorado Boulder 

Studying health-related behavior in the context of cannabis use: The past, present and future

With the legalization of cannabis across several states, there has been a significant increase in use among all age groups over the last few years (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019). Despite its growing availability and subsequent use, cannabis is still classified as a schedule one drug by the federal government, which has hindered research exploring the correlates and consequences of this drug in humans. Specifically, researchers involved in randomized clinical trials are confined to using government grown products, limiting the generalizability of findings to real-world products. In an effort to navigate this, the Center for Health and Neuroscience, Genes, and Environment (CUChange) has implemented new methodologies (i.e., a mobile laboratory) allowing for investigations into how different cannabinoids relate to various psychological and biological outcomes in a more ecological valid way. This presentation will briefly discuss the current state of cannabis research, the goals of CUChange in relation to expanding cannabis research including our innovative mobile laboratory, and then two specific projects that are currently underway.




April 25, 2022


Undergraduate Data Blitz!



November 29, 2021


Ryan Ringer, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Leonard Lab

University of Colorado Denver

An Eye in the Sky: How Our Earthbound Minds Process Views from Above

Among our earliest real-world visual processes is the ability to quickly and accurately recognize natural scenes.  The gist of a scene is the first holistic, semantic representation of an image but also helps to guide subsequent visual functions, like visual search and object memory.  Throughout the majority of human evolutionary history, we have experienced our world from a terrestrial (ground-based) perspective. Although we have very little experience with the aerial perspective, both as a species and as individuals, there is a great deal of similarity in how we perceive scenes between these two viewpoints.  Meanwhile, the subtle differences found between aerial and terrestrial scene recognition can help identify the essential components of our everyday visual experiences.  In this presentation I will discuss some of the basic principles of scene perception research and how the structural composition of aerial views differs from that of terrestrial views.  I will also present data from behavioral and neurophysiological experiments on aerial versus terrestrial scene perception that may help explain how the structure of our environment is reflected in the structure of our visual cortex (and beyond).  Lastly, I will discuss how this research can be used to develop intelligent wayfinding systems for drivers and blind/visually impaired individuals.

October 25, 2021


Aaron Apawu, PhD

Assistant Professor of Analytical Chemistry

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

University of Northern Colorado

Combining Analytical Chemistry and Immunoassays to Gain a Comprehensive Understanding of the Neuroadaptation Instigated by Environmental Contaminants

The brain is an intricate organ that employs several billions of specialized cells forming specific network of systems. These specialized brain cells communicate through signaling molecules across synapses to execute variety of tasks. The brain signaling can be disrupted by several environmental contaminants including illicit drugs, industrial solvents, and loud noise. Toluene, a readily available industrial solvent is a major component of substances frequently abuse as inhalant and can also be encountered through incidental or occupational exposures. Inhalants have debilitating effect on mental health and therefore, understanding their impact on the brain is crucial to develop effective interventions and therapies for abusers as well as influencing OSHA guidelines for occupational exposures to industrial solvents. Although existing data have implicated dopamine (DA) in toluene’s action in the brain, the exact adaptations in the DA system leading to dependence experienced by inhalant users remain equivocal. In most industrial workplaces, not only are employees exposed to volatile organic solvents but are also subjected to excessive noise that usually triggers hearing loss and tinnitus. Interestingly, DA in the central auditory system has also been implicated in deafness related neuroplasticity. However, exactly how DA neurotransmission modulates hearing processes and how it is compromised through noise-induced hearing loss and related disorders are not well understood. This seminar will demonstrate how analytical techniques, including fast scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) have been used in conjunction with immunoassays to characterize the impact of toluene and deafening noise on the DA systems in the central reward and auditory pathways, respectively, as well as speculating the mechanisms underlying their actions. Notably, both acute and repeated inhalation of industrial solvent, toluene, elicit spatiotemporal changes in DA dynamics in the brain reward pathway Aaron Apawu graphical abstractand suggest that the dysregulation instigated by repeated toluene abuse may be the neuroadaptation underlining its compulsive and repetitive use. Meanwhile, loud noise attenuates DA release while triggering excessive production of reactive oxygen species, implicating oxidative stress as a possible mechanism.







September 27, 2021


Mark Smith, PhD

Wayne M. & Carolyn A. Watson Professor

Department of Psychology

Program in Neuroscience

Davidson College

Targeting Ovarian Hormones for Opioid Addiction: Evidence from Preclinical Studies

It is well established that ovarian hormones mediate many of the sex differences in drug use described in preclinical, clinical, and epidemiological studies. Much of this literature has focused on cocaine and related stimulants, and those studies reveal that estradiol reliably increases measures of drug intake and drug seeking, whereas progesterone reliably decreases these measures. Fewer studies have examined the effects of estradiol and progesterone on other drugs of abuse, and only a small number have examined their effects on opioid intake. Recent data reveal that ovarian hormones influence opioid intake in a manner different from that reported previously for stimulants, suggesting that the effects of ovarian hormones on measures relevant to drug abuse cannot be generalized across pharmacological classes. This presentation describes the effects of estradiol, progesterone, and their combination on opioid self-administration under several conditions that may be translationally relevant to substance abusing populations. Specifically, data from these studies suggest that gonadal hormones may have therapeutic benefit for women with opioid use disorder.


Spring 2021 Department of Psychology Colloquium Series

Monday, April 26th.

Annual Spring Undergraduate Data Blitz  

We will hear brief talks from 3 Department of Psychology undergraduates who have been working on original research with their faculty mentors.


Troy Hubert

Faculty Mentor: Ben Greenwood

The Neurobiology of Exercise-Induced Stress Resilience in Female Rats


Lauren Moment

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Shaffer

Predictors, Correlates, and Outcomes of Maladaptive Daydreaming: A survey-based study


Emerald Saldyt

Faculty Mentor: Dr. David Albeck

Mindfulness, Pro-social Behaviors, and Emotional Reactivity


Here is the zoom link:


Dr. Michelle West

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Director, Program for Early Assessment, Care, & Study (PEACS)

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry

University of Colorado - Anschutz Medical Campus

Monday, March 29th at 11:00AM


Zoom link:

Clinical High Risk for Psychosis (CHR-p): Overview and Pilot Exercise Intervention


This presentation will provide an overview of a newer research field, which focuses on early risk for psychosis (trouble telling the difference between what is real/not real) in young people. Early risk for psychosis involves identifying more subtle and unclear signs of possible psychosis, prior to onset of a clear psychotic disorder. We will review the importance of intervention as early as possible during the course of development of psychosis, as well as evidence-based assessment and treatment strategies for these early signs. Finally, we overview one particular research study in development, which aims to investigate the clinical and neurobiological impact of an exercise intervention for young people who exhibit risk for psychosis.



Monday, 2/22/21

11:00 AM

Zoom link:

Alexander Presciutti
Doctoral candidate
Department of Psychology
University of Colorado, Denver

The impact of psychological symptoms on recovery from acquired brain injury

Experiencing an acquired brain injury can be quite traumatizing for survivors and their loved ones. In this presentation, I will discuss how psychological symptoms resulting from acquired brain injuries (specifically, stroke and cardiac arrest) may impact different aspects of recovery from brain injury. Symptoms of posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety in particular have been linked to worse clinical outcome, quality of life, and subjective recovery. I will also discuss the relationship between survivors and their caregivers, and how that may also impact recovery. We will end by considering future directions in promoting recovery from brain injury through psychological mechanisms.


For more information about the talks or to meet with speakers, please contact Ben Greenwood (



Carly Leonard, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
University of Colorado, Denver

The past is not forgotten: Influences of priming on the guidance of visual attention

During everyday life, we are continuously shifting our attention to prioritize some portion of the visual field over others. Our current goals, such as finding lost keys, strongly influence attentional allocation. Objects that are just more salient than others, such as a bright orange car, can attract our attention. In addition, there has been a growing interest in how our recent past affects attentional allocation. In this talk, I'll summarize work from my lab that explores how prior allocations of attention influence the current allocation of attention.



Academic (Student Commons) building Room 2018

Jason Aoto, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department of Pharmacology
University of Colorado School of Medicine

Sexual dimorphism in the ventral subiculum microcircuit - a functional and molecular interrogation of inhibitory synapses

The microcircuit of the subiculum is comprised of excitatory principle neurons and local periosomatic inhibitory basket cells and it is thought that the precise connectivity and function of these neurons is essential for establishing excitatory/inhibitory balance. Dysfunction of the ventral subiculum microcircuit, primarily due to reduced synaptic inhibition, has been linked to schizophrenia, addiction disorders and altered stress response. Despite the obvious importance of the ventral subiculum microcircuit, our understanding of the fundamental connectivity and synaptic function of inhibitory neurons in this circuit is incomplete. Additionally, an evolutionarily conserved and essential presynaptic adhesion molecule, neurexin-3, has been repeatedly linked to addiction disorders and schizophrenia, suggesting that this molecule may play a critical, yet untested, role at inhibitory synapses in ventral subiculum. We unexpectedly observed sexual dimorphism in the fundamental connectivity and synaptic transmission properties of inhibitory neurons in the ventral subiculum microcircuit. Moreover, we find that the usage of neurexin-3 at inhibitory synapses is dependent on the synapse studied and is sexually dimorphic.


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

Mark Lumley, PhD

Distinguished Professor

Director of Clinical Psychology Training

Department of Psychology

Wayne State University

Novel directions in the psychological treatment of chronic pain

The leading psychological approaches for chronic pain management have only modest efficacy.  In this talk, I examine limitations in these approaches and propose that new models that hold promise for larger effects. These novel directions include: a) the value of diagnosing and targeting centralization of pain; b) emphasizing pain reduction or elimination as a feasible outcome; and c) directly targeting through emotional processing the psychological trauma and conflict that trigger and maintain centralized pain. Results of clinical trials that my colleagues and I have conducted will be presented to support these proposals.

Check out this NPR piece featuring Dr. Lumley’s research on pain:



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

Zoe Donaldson, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

University of Colorado Boulder

Neuronal signature of monogamous reunion in prairie voles

Prairie voles, unlike laboratory mice and rats, form life-long pair bonds with their mating partner. We used in vivo Ca2+ imaging to identify a subset of partner-approach neurons and found that the number of these neurons increase following pair bond formation. These neurons may represent a neuronal substrate for pair-bond directed motivation.



Academic (Student Commons) building Room 2018

Undergraduate Data Blitz!!

Speakers to be announced…


For more information about the talks or to meet with speakers, please contact Ben Greenwood (