Benjamin C. Nephew, PhD
Section of Neuroscience and Reproductive Biology
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Lab URLs: http://sackler.tufts.edu/Faculty-and-Research/Faculty-Research-Pages/Benjamin-Nephew
BS - Hobart College - 1998
PhD - Tufts University - 2003
General Research Interest:
My research is focused on developing a rodent model for stress-induced postpartum maternal behavioral disorders. This model will be used to investigate novel treatments for disorders that disrupt maternal behavior, such as depression and anxiety. Postpartum behavioral disorders in humans can have negative effects on the health of both mother and offspring, but little is known about the development of these disorders. Although chronic stress is a known risk factor for depression, and depression is frequently associated with impaired maternal behavior, it is unknown how chronic stress during lactation affects maternal behavior. My current studies focus specifically on how chronic social stress, an ethologically relevant stressor, impacts maternal behavior. I use behavioral observation, physiological monitoring, molecular genetics, neuroendocrine manipulation, and functional MRI to investigate this question. Recent investigations indicate that the neurohormones arginine vasopressin (AVP), oxytocin (OXT), and corticosteroid releasing factor (CRH) are involved in the modulation of maternal behavior in lactating rats. AVP, OXT, and/or CRH may also be significant factors in the physiological and behavioral effects of chronic stress. It is likely that that AVP, OXT, and/or CRH are involved in the development of chronic stress-induced behavioral, endocrine, and physiological changes in maternal females.
Research Sponsor Interest
Federally Funded Research
Selected Research Projects:
"Central Vasopressin and Maternal Behavior.” The main objectives for this NIH funded project are to develop a rodent model for social stress-induced postpartum behavioral disorders and explore the potential therapeutic value of manipulating the central vasopressin and/or oxytocin pathways. This project involves a collaboration with Dr. Christopher Murgatroyd at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry on the the use of chronic social stress as a model for early life stress on the offspring of stressed dams. These studies investigate epigenetic mechanisms for the effects of chronic social stress on offspring physiology, endocrinology, and behavior. A second collaboration with Dr. Eric Nestler at the Mount Sinai Medical focuses on neural indicators of exposure to chronic stress (CREB) and resilience to the adverse effects of chronic stress (ΔFosB) in stressed dams and their offspring.
- I also collaborate with Dr. Marcelo Febo at Northeastern University in a NIH funded investigation of the long term behavioral, physiological, and neural effects of a history of adult cocaine use on subsequent maternal behavior using a rodent model.
Research and Clinical Interests:
- Surgical approaches include stereotaxic surgery and the implantation of subcutaneous osmotic minipumps for noninvasive drug delivery.
- Lab techniques include radioimmunoassays for hormones and real time PCR for gene expression of neural peptides and receptors.
- Behavioral assays include measurement of parental behavior, aggression, activity chambers, assessment of pain, and testing for reproductive behaviors.
- I also plan on establishing an implantable physiological telemetry system to remotely monitor heart rate, body temperature, and activity in the home cages of experimental subjects. Visit www.datasci.com for details.
Major Specialized Equipment Items Available:
- Gamma counter
- Behavioral Apparatus
- 7 Tesla small animal MRI magnet.
Carini, L.M., Nephew, B.C. 2013. Using Chronic Social Stress to Model Postpartum Depression in Lactating Rodents.
Journal of Visualized Experiments. Accepted.
Murgatroyd, C.A., Nephew, B.C. 2013. Effects of early life social stress on maternal behavior and neuroendocrinology.
Psychoneuroendocrinology. 38 219-228.
Nephew, B.C., Caffrey, M.K., Felix‐Ortiz, A.C. Febo, MA. 2012. Prior adult cocaine sensitization increases maternal
behavior and alters neural activity in virgin rats. Brain Sciences. 2 667-683.
Coverdill, A.J., McCarthy, M., Bridges, R.S., Nephew, B.C. 2012. Effects of Chronic Central AVP on Maternal Behavior in
Chronically Stressed Rat Dams. Brain Sciences. 2 589-604.
Nephew, B.C., Bridges, R.S. 2011. Effects of chronic social stress during lactation on maternal behavior and growth.
Stress. 14(6) 677‐684.
Nephew, B.C., Febo, M. 2010. Effect of cocaine sensitization prior to pregnancy on maternal care and aggression in the
rat. Psychopharmacology. 209 127‐135.
Nephew, B.C., Byrnes, E.M., Bridges, R.S. 2010. Vasopressin mediates enhanced offspring protection in multiparous rats.
Neuropharmacology. 58(1) 102‐106.
Caffrey, M.K., Nephew, B.C., Febo, M. 2010. Central vasopressin V1a receptors modulate neural processing in mothers
facing intruder threat to pups. Neuropharmacology. 58(1) 107‐116.
Nephew, B.C., Ferris, C.F., Felix‐Ortiz, A.C., Caffrey, M.K., Febo, M. 2009. BOLD signal responses in corticolimbic
‘emotions’ circuitry of lactating rats facing intruder threat to pups. European Journal of Neuroscience. 30(5) 934‐45.
Nephew, B.C., Bridges, R.S., Lovelock, D.F., Byrnes, E.M. 2009. Enhanced maternal aggression and associated changes in
neuropeptide gene expression in reproductively experienced rats. Behavioral Neuroscience. 123(5) 949‐957.
Nephew, B.C., Bridges, R.S. 2008. Central actions of arginine vasopressin and a V1a receptor antagonist on maternal
aggression, maternal behavior, and grooming in lactating rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior. 91(1) 77‐83.
Nephew, B.C. Bridges. R.S. 2008. Arginine vasopressin V1a receptor antagonist impairs maternal memory in rats.
Physiology and Behavior. 95(1‐2) 182‐186.
Nephew, B.C. Bridges. R.S. 2008. The progesterone receptor and parental behavior in juvenile rats. Developmental
Psychobiology. 50(6) 535‐541.
Nephew, B.C., Amico, J., Cai, H.M., Walker, A.M., Scanlan, V.F., Bridges, R.S. 2007. Central administration of the prolactin
receptor antagonist, S179D‐PRL, disrupts parturition in rats. Reproduction. 134 155–160.
Dickens, M.J., Nephew, B.C., Romero, L.M. 2006. Captive European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) In breeding condition
show an increased cardiovascular response to intruders. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 79, 937–943.