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Kathryn Commons, PhD

Department: Anesthesiology Perioperative and Pain Medicine
Research Centers: Anesthesiology Research Center
Hospital Title: Research Associate
Academic Title: Associate Professor
Research Area: Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Anorexia nervosa
early nervous system development
Drug use treatment strategies
mechanisms of homeostatic sleep regulation
Neurobehavioral and social emotional development
Neurotransmitter secretion
Opioid tolerance
Substance abuse research
Synapse Development
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Research Overview

Kathryn (Katie) Commons is a neuroscientist interested in understanding how serotonin neurotransmission functions in the brain. Serotonin is a broad modulator of behavior and is associated with several neuropathologies. These include developmentally related disorders (autism, SIDS, anorexia, addictive behavior) and those that are common in adults, such as anxiety and bipolar disorder. Serotonin is also implicated in chronic pain syndromes and in the response to analgesic agents. Therefore, greater insight into the function of the serotonin system at both the cellular and network level can have a profound impact on the understanding and treatment of many clinically important problems. Serotonin is probably best known as a transmitter that influences mood. Dr. Commons is particularly interested in understanding how two classes of stimuli influence the serotonin system. These are pain, which has a profoundly negative effect on mood, and addictive drugs, which generally have a positive effect on mood. Addictive drugs are also commonly used as analgesics (opiates) or have analgesic properties. Dr. Commons is interested in the development of the serotonin system postnatally and through adolescence, which represent vulnerable periods for different age-dependent serotonin-related disorders.

General questions of interest to the Commons lab include: How does serotonin neurotransmission relate to behavioral output? How do positive and negative stimuli (stress, pain, inflammation, drugs) shift the state of the serotonin system? How does the anatomical organization of the serotonin system influence its function? What are the developmental changes in the serotonin system? Why are the several feedback mechanisms built into the serotonin system?

About Dr. Commons

Dr. Commons received her PhD at Cornell University Medical College. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller University, and a research assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She is currently an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital.

For a list of Kathryn Commons’ publications on PubMed, click here.

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