Dr. Kimberly Nixon
Dr. Nixon received her Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of Texas at Austin under the mentorship of Dr. Steven W. Leslie, Dean of the College of Pharmacy and National Academies of Science member, Dr. Abram Amsel. Dr. Nixon then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Fulton T. Crews, Director of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While at UNC, she was the first to discover the effect of alcohol on neurogenesis in adult organisms. The Nixon lab is interested in the role of neural stem cells in alcoholic neuropathology. The seminal discovery that neural stem cells produce newborn neurons in the adult brain (a.k.a. adult neurogenesis) has changed the way we think about CNS pathologies and associated dysfunctions. Understanding the factors that regulate adult neurogenesis and their contribution to brain and behavioral processes provides a new framework for understanding neurodegenerative and regenerative effects that occur during active alcohol dependence and abstinence respectively. The Nixon Lab uses cutting edge neuroanatomical, biochemical and behavioral techniques to identify the mechanism by which alcohol not only inhibits neural stem cell proliferation and adult neurogenesis but also how it promotes neurogenesis in recovery and abstinence from alcoholism. Our currently funded projects are generally based around mechanisms of neurodegeneration and regeneration in models of alcoholism. Our primary work investigates whether alcohol targets progenitor cells during alcohol intoxication and conversely the mechanism by which alcohol induces the recruitment of progenitors following alcohol-induced brain damage. A major goal is to identify and understand the various signaling pathways involved in the recruitment of progenitors following binge-induced brain damage and how that endogenous pathway may be harnessed for pharmacological treatment of alcohol-induced neurodegeneration. New projects are extending these findings into models of adolescent drinking and investigating novel neuroprotectants.