Texas Tech University

Breanna N. Harris

Research Assistant Professor

Email: breanna.n.harris@ttu.edu

Phone: 1(806)834-6307

  • Ph.D., Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology.University of California, Riverside (2007-2012)
  • B.S., Marine Biology. Ohio University (2001-2005)


Dr. Harris

Research Focus and Background

Broadly, my research addresses how stressors influence organismal function and life-history tradeoffs. More specifically, I focus on the behavioral, physiological, and fitness implications of plasticity in “stress-response” systems, mainly the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal/interrenal (HPA/I) axis. The HPA/I axis is evolutionarily conserved and its hormonal end products, the glucocorticoids, are critical for survival, and play an important role in many physiological and behavioral processes including reproduction, immune system regulation, energy metabolism, memory and cognition, and cardiovascular function. Many human diseases and psychopathologies (e.g., PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression, Alzheimer's Disease, eating disorders) present with HPA axis dysregulation for unknown reasons and by unknown mechanisms. These wide-ranging effects make the HPA axis a well-suited system for studying the physiological underpinnings of life history trade-offs and for investigating human health trajectories and disease etiology.

My research program addresses two complementary central questions: 1) how does variation in response to and recovery from stressors translate into functional consequences in organismal behavior, health, life history trade-offs, and fitness?, and 2) how do organismal behavior, sensory perception, genotype, sex, life history stage, and trade-offs alter the physiological response to stressors? Both questions are important for understanding animal life histories, ecological interactions, and evolutionary trade-offs, and both are also relevant to human health and disease.

My work is integrative and comparative - I have used multiple species, including crabs, lobsters, sharks, frogs, mice, and humans to answer questions relating to stress physiology, behavior, and trade-offs. Currently, my laboratory is investigating the relationship among stress, anxiety, genetics, and cognitive function (mice and humans); the role of threat and stress in anxiety and decision making (frogs and humans); and sensory processing, stress neuroendocrinology, and trade-offs between feeding and fleeing behavior (frogs). My research projects are collaborative and undergraduate students play an integral role in my lab.

Courses Taught

  • Biology 4301-D79: Human Reproduction and Sexual Behavior, online
  • Biology 4301-079: Peer Mentoring in Human Physiology
  • Zoology 2404: Anatomy and Physiology II
  • Biology 4301-079: Human Reproduction and Sexual Behavior
  • Biology 4301-079: Brain, Behavior and Hormones

Selected Publications

For complete list of publications, please see the Google Scholar Page.

*undergraduate author
  1. Saltzman, W., Harris, B.N ., de Jong, T.R., Nguyen, P.P.*, Cho,
    J.T.*, Hernandez, M.*, Perea-Rodriguez, J.P. 2015. Effects of parental status on
    male body mass in the monogamous, biparental California mouse ( Peromyscus
    ). Journal of Zoology. 296, 23-29.
  2. Harris, B.N., de Jong, T.R., Yang, V.*, and Saltzman, W. (2013). Chronic variable stress in fathers Alters paternal and social behavior but not pup development in the biparental California mouse (Peromyscus californicus). Hormones and Behavior,64, 799-811.
  3. de Jong, T.R., Harris, B.N., Perea-Rodriguez, J.P., Saltzman, W. (2013). Physiological and neuroendocrine responses to chronic variable stress in male California mice (Peromyscus californicus): influence of social environment and paternal state. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38, 2023-2033. 
  4. Harris, B.N. and Saltzman, W. (2013). Effect of reproductive status on HPA activity and reactivity in male California mice (Peromyscus californicus). Physiology and Behavior, 112-113, 70-76.
  5. Harris, B.N. and Saltzman, W. (2013). Effects of age on HPA activity and reactivity in male and female California mice (Peromyscus californicus). General and Comparative Endocrinology, 186, 41-49.
  6. Harris, B.N., Saltzman, W., de Jong, T.R., Milnes, M.R. (2012). HPA function in the California Mouse (Peromyscus californicus): Changes in baseline activity, reactivity, and fecal excretion of corticosterone across the diurnal cycle. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 179, 436-450.
  7. Dlugosz, E.M., Harris, B.N., Saltzman, W., Chappell, M.A. (2012). Glucocorticoids, aerobic physiology, and locomotor behavior in California Mice. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 85, 671-683. 
  8. de Jong, T.R., Korosi, A., Harris, B.N., Perea-Rodriguez, J.P., Saltzman, W. (2012). Individual variation in paternal responses of virgin California mice (Peromyscus californicus): behavioral and physiological correlates. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology,85, 740-751.
  9. Harris, B.N., Perea-Rodriguez, J.P., Saltzman, W. (2011). Acute effects of corticosterone injection on paternal behavior in California mouse (Peromyscus californicus) fathers. Hormones and Behavior, 60, 666-675.
  10. de Jong, T.R., Measor, K.R., Chauke, M., Harris, B.N., Saltzman, W. (2010). Brief pup exposure induces Fos expression in the lateral habenula and serotonergic caudal dorsal raphe nucleus of paternally experienced male California mice (Peromyscus californicus). Neuroscience, 169, 1094-1104.
  11. Blumstein, D.T., Ebensperger, L.A., Hayes, L.D., Vásquez, R.A., Ahern, T.H., Burger, J.R., Dolezal, A.G., Dosmann, A., González-Mariscal, G., Harris, B.N., Herrera, E.A., Lacey, E.A., Mateo, J., McGraw, L., Olazábal, D., Ramenofsky, M., Rubenstein, D.R., Sakhai, S.A., Saltzman, W., Sainz-Borgo. C., Soto-Gamboa, M., Stewart, M.L., Wey, T.W., Wingfield, J.C., Young, L.T. (2010). Towards an integrative understanding of social behavior: new models and new opportunities. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 4, 1-9.
  12. Dowd, W.W., Harris, B.N., Cech Jr., J.J., Kultz, D. (2010). Proteomic and physiological responses of leopard sharks Triakis semifasciata to salinity change. Journal of Experimental Biology, 213, 210-224.
  13. de Jong, T.R., Chauke, M., Harris, B.N., Saltzman, W. (2009). From here to paternity: Neural correlates of the onset of paternal behavior in California mice (Peromyscus californicus). Hormones and Behavior, 56, 220-231.
  14. Harris, B., Sulkin, S. (2005). Significance of feeding to the development of postlarval megalopae in the free-living crabs Lophopanopeus bellus and commensal crab Fabia subquadrata. Marine Ecology Progress Series291, 169-175.

Other Publications

Harris, B ., Gray, B. Volcano smoke and mirrors: Tricks for a successful science fair project.  Lubbock Avalanche Journal, Lubbock online , November 2, 2014.

Harris, B.N ., Carr, J.A. I Heart Running: A case study of tachycardia in Sam the runner. NSF National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, In-press .

Harris, B.N. Endocrinology Internship: Living the Sweet Life. NSF National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, In-press .

Department of Biological Sciences

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    Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Box 43131 Lubbock, TX 79409
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