Neil M. Fournier
B.Sc. (Laurentian University)
M.Sc. (Dalhousie University)
Ph.D. (University of Saskatchewan)
Postdoc (Yale University School of Medicine)
Office: LHS C135
Phone: 705-748-1011 ext. 7339
The primary focus of my lab is to better understand the mediators of brain plasticity that allow the organism to adapt to the challenges and demands encountered within its environment. Specifically, my research examines how aberrant changes in plasticity contribute to or exacerbate neuropsychiatric and neurological conditions.
One of the most striking examples of structural plasticity within the adult brain is the continual generation of new neurons in specific brain regions, such as the hippocampus- a structure critical for learning and memory. A core focus of my work examines how changes in the rate of adult neurogenesis impacts behavior, and in particular how the abnormal integration and function of newborn neurons alters the development of clinical diseases, such as depression and epilepsy. Current and future studies are aimed at: 1) identifying the transcriptional/cell-signaling events that regulate the activity of neural stem cells; 2) determining the signals that direct neuronal migration and the synaptic development of newborn neurons; and 3) examining how the integration of adult-born neurons impacts and guides behavior under normal and pathological states.
A second focus of my work is to use animal models to understand the neural mechanisms involved in distinguishing safe from potentially threatening environments (e.g., learned safety). Learned safety is an associative learning process in which an organism develops the ability to predict protection and/or security from an aversive event and in turn acts to inhibit fear responses. Dysfunction in learned safety plays a role in the development of a number of neuropsychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite its importance, safety learning remains a largely unexplored behavioral process. Current and future studies will be aimed at: 1) exploring the neurobiological circuitry and brain regions that support learned safety; 2) determining how environmental factors, such as exposure to early life stress and/or exposure to drugs of abuse, impacts the ability to successfully learn cues that predict safety across development; and 3) employing genetic approaches to selectively study the neural populations that encode for safety vs. extinction learning.
My lab uses a range of approaches to address these questions, including: 1) transgenic and/or viral vector-mediated manipulations to label or modify distinct neuronal populations; 2) the use of conditional and/or inducible knockout animals to achieve spatial and temporal control of gene expression; 3) the use of cellular (immunohistochemistry, in-situ hybridization, FISH) and molecular (e.g., PCR, ELISA, immunoblotting) biological techniques; 4) fluorescent stereology and confocal microscopy; and 5) the use of behavioral paradigms to delineate the functional outcome of our manipulations.
Positions are available in our laboratory for motivated and hard-working undergraduate and graduate students. If you are interested, please contact Dr. Neil M. Fournier (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PSYC 2200H-B FA PTBO: Brain and Behaviour
PSYC 3240H-A FA PTBO: Drugs and Behaviour
PSYC 3240H-A WI PTBO: Drugs and Behaviour
PSYC 3460H-A WI PTBO: Sensation & Perception
Fournier, N.M., Botterill, J.J., Guskjolen, A., Marks, W.N., and Kalynchuk, L.E. Impaired recruitment of seizure-generated neurons into functional memory networks of the adult dentate gyrus following long-term amygdala kindling. Experimental Neurology. 2013, 244:96-104.
Fournier, N.M., and Duman, R.S. Illuminating hippocampus control of fear memory and anxiety. Neuron. 2013, 77(5): 803-806.
Newton, S.S., Fournier, N.M., and Duman, R.S. Vascular factors in neuropsychiatry. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2013, 70(10): 1739-52.
Fournier, N.M., lee, B., Banasr, M., Elsayed, M., and Duman, R.S. Vascular endothelial growth factor regulates adult hippocampal cell proliferation through MEK/ERK- and PI3K/Akt-dependent signaling. Neuropharmacology. 2012, 63: 642-652.
Fournier, N.M., and Duman, R.S. Role of vascular endothelial growth factor in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Implications for the pathophysiology and treatment of depression. Behav Brain Res. 2012, 227:440-449.
Fournier, N.M., Andersen, D.R., Botterill, J.J., Sterner, E.Y., Lussier, A.L., Caruncho, H.J., and Kalynchuk, L.E. The effect of amygdala kindling on hippocampal neurogenesis coincides with decreased reelin and DISC1 expression in the adult dentate gyrus. Hippocampus. 2010, 20(5): 659-671.