Sofiya Hupalo

Sofiya Hupalo
Ph.D Candidate


Craig W. Berridge

Research Description:

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a pivotal role in cognitive processes that guide flexible goal-directed behavior, particularly under ambiguous and/or distracting conditions. These actions involve topographically organized frontostriatal projections. Frontostriatal dysfunction is implicated in a variety of disorders, including addiction, ADHD, and schizophrenia. Catecholamines exert potent modulatory actions on PFC neuronal function that contribute to the therapeutic effects of drugs used to treat a variety of cognitive/behavioral disorders. However, additional neuromodulators are present within the PFC, including corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). Despite 30+ years of research into the neurobiology of CRF and the PFC, there is no information regarding the cognitive actions of CRF signaling in the PFC. In recent studies, we observed that CRF acts locally within the PFC to impair PFC-dependent cognition in rats as measured in a test of spatial working memory. In addition, CRF receptor blockade within the PFC improves working memory, similar to that seen with ADHD-related pharmacological treatments. Collectively, these observations suggest translationally-relevant actions of endogenous CRF signaling within the PFC. 


The goal of my research is to determine the broader cognitive and electrophysiological actions of CRF signaling in the PFC. The frontostriatal-dependent tasks of spatial working memory and sustained attention used to test cognitive function in these studies offer translationally relevant insight into the mechanisms underlying behavioral deficits in frontostriatal psychopathology. Ultimately, this research may lead to novel treatment strategies for frontostriatal dysfunction.