Breanna N. 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.
- 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