Research in the laboratory focuses on the understanding of the neurobiology of stress-related disorders, particularly Post-traumatic stress disorder and stress-induced depression, and the effects of stressful experiences in early life on cognitive and emotional abilities in adulthood.
Our team consists of graduate students, post-docs and reseacrch associates, both Israeli and international students, each with his or her own approach to studying stress-related dosorders. Aside from developing novel behavioral models, our lab uses a wide range of methods to study the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the behaviors. These include in vivo electrophysiology, microscopy and various molecular and biochemical analyses.
Our work involves both basic and clinical research and works in collaboration with the Institue for the Study of Affective Neuroscience (ISAN) in the University of Haifa.
For more information on our current projects visit our Research Interests section.
Ritov G, Richter-Levin G.
Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Jan 10;7(1):e1000. doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.277.
In basic research, the etiology of fear-related pathologies, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is conceptualized using fear-conditioning protocols that pair environmental stimuli (that is, a conditioned stimulus-CS) with an aversive, unconditioned stimulus (US) to elicit an assessable conditioned fear response. Although pathophysiological models agree that regulatory dysfunctions in this associative process may instigate fear-related pathology, current opinions differ in regard to the nature of these dysfunctions. Primarily derived from studies in rodents, the prevailing perspective proposes that pathological fear-reactions develop from intensified and overly consolidated CS-US associations. Alternatively, models derived from studies in humans suggest that tempospatial inaccuracies in representations of associative fear might precipitate pathology by engendering failure to differentiate present experiences and past memories of threat. To test this concept in rodents, we administered rats with cognition enhancing doses of Methylphenidate before or after fear conditioning and measured long-term alterations in their conditioned fear behaviors and PTSD-like reactions. The administration of Methylphenidate before fear-memory formation indeed reduced anxious-like responses during fear-memory retrieval one month later. An individual profiling analysis revealed that Methylphenidate onset had opposing effects on the risk for PTSD-like classification. The modulation of initial learning and formation of associative fear normalized the risk for developing PTSD-like reaction. In contrast, when the effects of Methylphenidate were exerted only over later consolidation this risk increased markedly. When examined under current psychiatric and neuropharmacologic literature, these results reveal a possible strategy of using low-dose Methylphenidate for the prevention of PTSD in high risk populations.
Head of Lab
Prof. Gal Richter-Levin is currently the head of the Institute for the Study of Affective Neuroscience (ISAN), at the University of Haifa.
He earned his PhD (1992) at the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel, under the supervision of Prof. Menahem Segal.
Prof. Richter-Levin joined the University of Haifa in 1995 and since 2006 he is a full professor at the Department of Neurobiology and the Department of Psychology.
Prof. Richter-Levin has made major contributions to developing novel translational animal models of mood and anxiety disorders, as well as towards the understanding of the role of emotional and amygdala activation in traumatic memory and depression.