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School of Medicine Columbia

Faculty and Staff

Marlene A. Wilson, Ph.D.

Title: Department Chair
Department: Pharmacology, Physiology & Neuroscience
School of Medicine Columbia
Phone: 803-216-3507
Fax: 803-216-3524

Pharmacology, Physiology & Neuro
Basic Science Bldg 1, Rm D-41



Yale University

University Illinois - Champaign

Muskingum College

Research Focus

My lab investigates the neurochemical underpinnings of anxiety- and stress-related behaviors, with an emphasis on individual differences in neural systems that may represent risk factors for disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A major focus is the role of neuropeptides and the amygdala in stress-induced behavioral and endocrine responses, as well as actions of anxiety-reducing modalities such as the Valium-like benzodiazepines, and alcohol. Of particular interest is the role of the opioid morphine-like peptide enkephalin, neuropeptide Y (NPY), orexin/hypocretin, and the cholinergic system in stress responses and the actions of anxiety-reducing drugs. The project utilizes a multidisciplinary approach highlighted by virus-mediated gene transfer technology in combination with behavioral analyses, neurochemical assays including in vivo microdialysis, anatomical analyses, and molecular assessments of expression changes. Many of our studies examine individual variation and sex differences in various animal models of anxiety-related behaviors, including fear learning/extinction and predator stress.  

Recent Publications

  • Wilson, M.A. and Fadel, JR. (2017) Cholinergic regulation of fear learning and extinction. J. Neuroscience Research, 178:93-102. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.10.008. PMID: 27746261
  • Wilson, M.A. and Reagan, L.P. (2016) Special Issue: New Perspectives in PTSD, Experimental Neurology (L.P.Reagan and M.A.Wilson special issue editors), 284: 115-118; DOI: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2016.09.011 PMID: 27719965
  • Macht, VA, Vazquez, M, Petyak, C, Grillo, CA, Kaigler, K, Enos, RT,  McClellan, JL, T. L. Cranford, TL, Murphy, EA, Nyland, Solomon, G, Gertler, A, Wilson, MA and Reagan, LP. (2017)  Leptin resistance elicits depressive-like behaviors in rats, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 60: 151-160  PMID: 27743935 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.10.008;  available online:
  • Sharko, AC, Kaigler, KF, Fadel, JR and Wilson, MA. (2016) Activation of orexin/hypocretin neurons is associated with individual differences in cued fear extinction, Physiology & Behavior, available online:; PMID: 27746261
  • Sharko, AC, Kaigler, KF, Fadel, JR and Wilson, MA. (2016) Ethanol-induced anxiolysis and neuronal activation in the amygdala and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, Alcohol 50:19-25. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2015.11.001. PMID: 26775553
  • Butler, RK, Sharko, AC, Oliver, EM, Parilla-Carrero, J,, Kaigler, K, Fadel, JR and Wilson, MA, (2016) Activation of corticotropin releasing factor containing neurons in the rat central amygdala and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis following exposure to two different anxiogenic stressors, Behavioural Brain Research 304:92-101. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2016.01.051 PMID: 26821289
  • Wilson, MA,  Grillo, CA, Fadel, JR, and Reagan, L.P  (2015) Stress as a one-armed bandit: differential effects of stress paradigms on the morphology, neurochemistry and behavior in the rodent amygdala,  Neurobiology of Stress, 1: 195-208
  • Wilson, MA and Junor, L, (2008) The role of amygdalar mu opioid receptors in anxiety-related responses in two rat models, Neuropsychopharmacology,  33(12):2957-2968.
  • Burghardt, P.R.1, Pasumarthi, R.K.1, Wilson, M.A., and Fadel, J. (1=contributed equally). (2006) Alterations in fear conditioning and amygdalar activation following chronic wheel running in rats, Pharm., Biochem. & Behavior, 84:306-12
  • Primeaux, S.D., Wilson, S.P., Bray, G.A., York, D.A., and Wilson, M.A. (2006) Overexpression of neuropeptide Y in the central nucleus of the amygdala decreases ethanol self administration in “anxious” rats. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 30: 791-801
  • Wilson, M.A., Burghardt, P.R., Ford, K.A., Wilkinson, M.B., and Primeaux, S.D.  (2004) Anxiolytic effects of diazepam and ethanol in two behavioral models:  comparison of males and females Pharm. Biochem. Behavior, 78: 445-458.

Find Dr. Wilson on PubMed

Lab Members

  • Kris Ford Kaigler - Research Specialist II
  • Dr. Sarah "Kitty" Tryon - Post Doctoral Fellow
  • Iris "Mika" Sakamoto - Research Specialist I 
  • Devin Kellis - Laboratory Technician
  • Gabriella "Gabby" Gee - Undergraduate Research Student





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