OHSU

Allison Anacker

Ph.D. Graduate (2012)

Allison AnackerUndergraduate Education   

BS (2006) Cell & Molecular Biology, Humboldt State University 

Training Dates at OHSU 

2007-2012 

Mentor 

Andrey Ryabinin Ph.D. 

Dissertation Title 

Interactions between social relationships and alcohol drinking in a novel prairie vole model (Mentor: Andrey Ryabinin)

Current Position 

Eveillard Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer, Neuroscience Program, Smith College, Northampton, MA 

Postdoctoral Training 

I am working in the laboratory of Annaliese Beery at Smith College (see research description below). In addition to my research, I teach one undergraduate class per semester, including Experimental Methods in Neuroscience and a seminar on Reward, Addiction, and the Brain. It is a two-year position funded by the College. 

Contact 

allison.anacker@gmail.com 

Funding Received  

  • Society for Women's Health Research Donald G. and Darel Stein Fellowship, 2012 
  • Tartar Fellowship, 2011-12  
  • National Research Service Award, 2010-2012  
  • Ashworth Graduate Training Award, 2009  
  • ARCS Scholarship, 2007-2010  

My Portland Experience 

I loved living in Portland! In lived in the SW, SE, and on the hill.  I especially loved living on the hill with the Marquam Nature Trails right behind my house where I could easily go on short or really long hikes with my dog. I also particularly enjoyed driving out to Hood River and all the waterfalls along the way. I went to a lot of pubquiz trivia nights, which was a good way to check out a lot of pubs all over town and meet people.

My OHSU Experience 

OHSU was my first choice for graduate school because of the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience's strengths in my areas of interest, behavioral genetics, addiction, and particularly alcohol drinking. I am so happy and grateful I ended up there - I can't imagine any better place for me. The program was run very well and very supportive of its students. I felt like I really got to know most of the faculty and I like now feeling that I have a network of people whose research I know really well and I can ask them for advice of even collaboration.

I loved working in Andrey Ryabinin's laboratory. He was a fantastic mentor and it was fun to work with him on a new and exciting project. My research in his lab went surprisingly well at first - we developed a novel animal model of social facilitation of alcohol drinking using prairie voles, which was very different from what had been reported by others using mice or rats. Follow-up research showed that they directly influence each other's drinking. Then things got harder as I tried to elucidate a behavioral mechanism for this for my dissertation by looking at individual drinking patterns in a lickometer system. But in the meantime, Andrey worked with me on a side project which developed into some very exciting results, showing a sex difference in the development of partner preference in prairie voles that have had access to alcohol vs. water. Everyone gets stuck at some point, and it was great to have a mentor to encourage me in the right direction so that I could keep moving forward, even if it took a separate project.

In addition to my research in Andrey Ryabinin's lab, I dabbled in guest lecturing in undergraduate and graduate courses and doing outreach through OHSU programs such as PARC and OBI. I would never have predicted this, but I ended up serving on the Graduate Student Organization Council and as a graduate student representative for the All-Hill Student Council. Through these positions I learned a lot about how a university works and made a lot of connections throughout the school and administration which were really valuable. I highly recommend getting involved in this way, or at least attending the meetings to know what is going on! I also helped run the Student Research Forum for several years and then was the student representative for expanding this event into the OHSU-wide Research Week.

Research

Interests: Behavior genetics, Epigenetics, Social behavior, Sex differences in behavior, Addiction, Neuropeptides

Background: I started out with a basic genetics background and didn't learn neuroscience and behavioral research techniques until graduate school! My graduate school training focused on alcohol self-administration in rodents. In my second-year project and dissertation I looked at the interactions between social relationships and alcohol drinking in prairie voles. The primary focus was on the unique behavior exhibited by these social animals, which modeled aspects of human behavior not previously modeled in rodents, but I also integrated analyses of select genetic markers and neuropeptides, employing microsatellite length analysis and immunohistochemistry. 

Description: In my current research I am studying the social behavior of female meadow voles, which changes seasonally. These females are relatively asocial in the summer months, in contact with others only for mating, but in the winter months they become communal nesters and can form selective preferences for familiar females. I am researching whether epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation patterns, particularly in the oxytocin receptor gene, may control the seasonal shifts in social behavior. Side projects with students include looking at how stress may affect these social preferences, and how infusions of oxytocin into specific brain regions affect social behavior under winter- or summer-like conditions in the laboratory.

Publications

  1. Anacker AMJ & Beery AK (in preparation) Paths to socialty: The role of oxytocin in mammalian social groups. Front Behav Neurosci, invited review for Research Topic: Oxytocin's routes in social behavior: Into the 21st century.
  2. Anacker AMJ, Ahern TH, Young LJ, Ryabinin AE (in preparation) Drinking alcohol has opposite effects on social preference development in male and female prairie voles.
  3. Anacker AMJ & Ryabinin AE (submitted) Identification of subpopulations of prairie voles differentially susceptible to peer influence to decrease high alcohol intake.
  4. Hostetler CM, Hitchcock JN, Anacker AMJ, Loftis JM, Young LJ, Ryabinin AE (2013) Comparative distribution of central neuropeptide Y (NPY) in the prairie (Microtus ochrogaster) and meadow (M. pennsylvanicus) vole. Peptides, 40:22-29. PMID: 23262357. PMCID: PMC3625676 [Available 2014/2/1]
  5. Hostetler CM, Anacker AMJ, Loftis JM, Ryabinin AE (2012) Social housing and alcohol drinking in male-female pairs of prairie voles (Microtus orchrogaster). Psychopharmacology (Berl), 224(1): 121-32. PMID: 22903359
  6. Anacker AMJ, Ahern TH, Young LJ, Ryabinin AE (2012) The role of early life experience and species differences in alcohol intake in microtine rodents. PLoS ONE 7(6): e39753. PMID: 22745824. PMCID: PMC3382173.
  7. Anacker AMJ, Loftis JM, Ryabinin AE (2011) Alcohol intake in prairie voles is influenced by the drinking level of a peer. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 35(10): 1884-90. PMID: 21575019. PMCID: PMC3158264.
  8. Giardino WJ, Pastor R, Anacker AMJ, Spangler E, Cote DM, Li J, Stenzel-Poore M, Mark GP, Phillips TJ, Ryabinin AE (2011) Dissection of corticotropin-releasing factor system involvement in locomotor sensitivity to methamphetamine. Genes, Brain, and Behavior, 10(1): 78-89. PMID: 20731720. PMCID: PMC3025045.
  9. Ford MM, Fretwell AM, Anacker AMJ, Crabbe JC, Mark GP, Finn DA (2011) The influence of selection for ethanol withdrawal severity on traits associated with ethanol self-administration and reinforcement. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 35(2): 326-37. PMID: 21070250. PMCID: PMC3058687.
  10. Anacker AMJ, Loftis JM, Kaur S, Ryabinin AE (2011) Prairie voles as a novel model of socially-facilitated excessive drinking. Addiction Biol, 16(1): 92-107. PMID: 20579002. PMCID: PMC2950896.
  11. Anacker AMJ, Ryabinin AE (2010) Biological contribution to social influences on alcohol drinking: Evidence from animal models. Int J Environ Res Public Health 7(2): 473-493. PMID: 20616986. PMCID: PMC2872279.
  12. Spangler E, Cote D, Anacker AMJ, Mark GP, Ryabinin AE (2009) Differential sensitivity of the perioculomotor urocortin-containing neurons to ethanol, psychostimulants, and stress in mice and rats. Neuroscience, 160(1): 115-25. PMID: 19248818. PMCID: PMC2668734.

Page last updated May 30, 2013