New Fralin Biomedical Research Institute neuroscientist studies long-lasting impacts of stress
Lousy sleep. A foul mood. Frequent trips to the refrigerator. They’re common signs of stress, but Sora Shin sees something more.
Shin’s new laboratory at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC examines how stress alters brain circuits, causing lasting changes to mood, behavior, and, in some cases, overall mental health.
“People show a dynamic range of responses to acute and chronic stress. Some people have sleep disturbances, while others feel more tired than usual. Likewise, some people may overeat and others lack an appetite,” said Shin, who is an assistant professor with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
According to the American Psychological Association, 75 percent of adults in the United States experience stress. But when it comes to treatment, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. By revealing what happens when brain circuits become impaired, Shin hopes her research will one day lead to more precise treatments for psychiatric disease.
“We first look at a functional difference in behavior, and trace it to a brain region where the change originated. Then we search for therapeutic targets to correct signaling errors within a defined brain circuit,” Shin said.
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