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Lorna Role, PhD


Professor and Chair
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior

Ph.D., Harvard

Phone: (631) 632-4100
Fax: (631) 632-6661






Lorna Role earned a B.A. degree in Applied Mathematics in 1975 and a PhD in Physiology in 1981, both from Harvard University . After three years of postdoctoral study with Dr Gerald Fischbach she was appointed an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology in the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University. She was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 1992, and in 1996 was promoted full Professor. From 1996 to 2008, she also held the position of Research Scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. In 2001 she was elected a member of The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP). In 2006 she was awarded the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Prize for Innovative Research related to Schizophrenia (NARSAD) and in 2007- 2008 received a second NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Award. In 2008, she joined the State University of New York at Stony Brook as Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. In 2009 she was advanced to Fellow of the ACNP and in 2010 was the recipient of an NIH Directors Pioneer award.

Research Interests/Expertise

Central cholinergic circuits, which provide important modulatory control of synaptic excitability, have been strongly implicated in cognitive impairments associated with neuropsychiatric diseases including schizophrenia, depression, and Alzheimer’s dementia. The Role laboratory studies the generation, plasticity, and maintenance of cholinergic and cholinoceptive synapses in the mammalian brain. Current work focuses on dissecting the role of cholinergic signalling in circuits and behaviors related to emotional salience in learning and memory. Such studies utilize a combination of electrophysiological, optogenetic and imaging approaches both in vitro and in vivo. In collaboration with the laboratory of Dr David Talmage (through the CNS Disorders group of the Centers for Molecular Medicine) , the Role lab is testing the hypothesis that products of the neuregulin-1 gene - a novel class of signaling molecules - are essential to the maintenance of central cholinergic circuits. This work employs molecular and biochemical approaches to examine the signaling cascades and target genes activated by neuregulin-1 in WT and gentically modified mice. As the neuregulin-1 gene has been strongly implicated as a susceptibility locus for schizophrenia, current work could provide important insight into the role of Nrg1 at synapses and circuits whose function and dysfunction may underlie this and other neuropsychiatric disorders.
  • Publications
  • Honors, Awards & Leadership
  • Laboratory Personnel
  • Jiang L, Emmetsberger J, Talmage DA, Role LW, (2013) Type III neuregulin 1 is required for multiple forms of excitatory synaptic plasticity of mouse cortico-amygdala circuits. J Neurosci. 5; 33(23):9655-66
  • Hancock ML, Nowakowski DW, Role LW, Talmage DA, Flanagan JG.(2011) Type III neuregulin 1 regulates pathfinding of sensory axons in the developing spinal cord and periphery. Development. 138(22):4887-98.
  • Nason MW JrAdhikari ABozinoski MGordon JARole LW. (2011) Disrupted activity in the  Hippocampal-accumbens circuit of type III neuregulin 1 mutant mice. Neuropsychopharmacology 36(2):488-96.    
  • Chen, Y., Hancock, M.L., Role, L.W. and Talmage, D.A.(2010) Intramembranous valine linked to schizophrenia is required for Type III neuregulin 1 signaling in the morphological development of cortical neurons. J. Neuroscience 30:9199-9208.
  • Nason, MW., Adhikari, A. Bozinoski, M., Gordon J A and LW Role ( 2010) "Disrupted activity in the hippocampal-accumbens circuit in Type-III neuregulin 1 mutant mice" Neuropsychopharmacology (6 October 2010) | doi:10.1038/npp.2010.180
  • Zhong, C., Du, C., Hancock, M., Mertz, M., Talmage, D.A., and Role, L.W. (2008) Presynaptic Type III Neuregulin 1 is required for sustained enhancement of hippocampal transmission by nicotine and for axonal targeting of a7 nAChRs. J. Neurosci. 28: 9111-9116.
  • Chen, Y-J., Johnson, M.A., Lieberman, M.D., Goodchild, R., Schobel, S., Lewandowski, N., Rosoklija, G., Liu, R-C., Gingrich, J.A., Small, S., Moore, H., Dwork, A.J., Talmage, D.A., and Role, L.W. (2008) Type III Nrg1 is required for normal sensorimotor gating, memory related behaviors and cortico-striatal circuit components. J. Neurosci. 28: 6872-6883.
  • Hancock, M.L., Canetta, S., Role, L.W. and Talmage, D.A. (2008). Presynaptic Type III Neuregulin1 - ErbB signaling targets a7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors to axons. J. Cell Biol.  181:511-521.
  • Role, L.W. and Talmage, D.A. (2007) A New Order for Thought Disorders Nature 448:263-265
  • Lopez Bendito, G., Cautinat, A., Sanchez, J.A., Bielle, Flames, N., Garratt, A. N., Talmage, DA, Role, L.W.., Charnay, P. Marin, O. & Garel, S.  (2006) Tangential Migration Controls Axon Guidance: A Role for Neuregulin 1 in thalamocortical axon navigation Cell 125: 127-142
  • Jo YH, Chua S., Talmage D.A. and Role LW (2005) Integration of Endocannabinoid and Leptin Signaling in an Appetite related Neural Circuit. Neuron 48: 1055-1066.
                    • 2010 recipient of an NIH Director's Pioneer Award (more)
                    • 2009 Grass Lecturer for the Vermont Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience
                    • named a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator (2nd time)
                    • received the Baer Prize for Innovative research related to Schizophrenia
                    • was a Plenary Speaker at the Cholinergic Circuits Symposium in Brazil (2008)
                    • was named the Bauer Visiting Professor at Brandeis University in Spring 2009
                    • has been invited to speak at a Signalling Symposium in Korea (2009)
                      • Elizabeth Ballinger, Graduate Student
                      • Yachi Chen, PhD - Research Assistant Professor
                      • Jaimie Emmetsberger, PhD - Postdoctoral Associate
                      • Li Jiang, PhD - Research Scientist
                      • Alice Jone - Graduate Student
                      • Shannon Loncar - Graduate Student
                      • Ashleigh Lussenden - Graduate Student
                      • Gretchen Lopez - Postdoctoral Associate
                      • Shaohua Wang - Graduate Student
                      • Chongbo Zhong, PhD - Research Scientist

                      • RECENT GRADUATES
                      • Sarah Canetta - Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University
                      • Jasmine Chen - Postdoctoral Fellow, UCSF
                      • Melissa Hancock - Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School
                      • Madeline Johnson - NYU School of Journalism
                      • Dianne Lee - Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University
                      • Michael Lieberman - Medical Director, AgencyRX (NY, NY)