Current Research and Scholarly Interests
The core interest that guides the Parker Lab translational research program is to understand the biological underpinnings of typical and atypical social behavior in animal models and in patient populations. This interest is manifested in two overlapping lines of research:
1) Studies of neuropeptides (e.g., oxytocin, vasopressin) that support species-typical social functioning in animals, and how alterations in these systems produce social impairments in a monkey model and in patients with autism. This research also tests the effectiveness of intranasal neuropeptide administration to enhance social functioning in children with autism, and whether biomarkers can help predict responses to these treatments.
2) Investigations of how early social relationships, and their disruption, alter developing neurobiological systems that regulate affect, social cognition, and stress reactivity, thereby producing stress resilient or stress vulnerable animals. This research is conducted in several species of monkeys and informs our clinical studies of patients with major depression.