Hala Nicolas, PhD
Dr. Harony-Nicolas is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and a Seaver Fellow at the Seaver Autism Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is a molecular and behavioral neuroscientist with extensive skills and expertise in studying transgenic rodent models for neurodevelopmental disorders, mainly Phelan McDerimd Syndrome (PMS) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She received her PhD in Molecular Biology at the Technion Institute in Israel and completed her first postdoctoral training in Molecular Neurobiology at University of Haifa, Israel. In the fall of 2011, she joined Dr. Joseph Buxbaum’s laboratory and the Seaver Autism Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she completed her second post-doctoral training and was promoted to the level of Instructor in 2014. Her postdoctoral training lead to the validation and characterization for a new transgenic rat model for ASD; the Shank3-deficient rat, and for the demonstration that an acute administration of the oxytocin peptide ameliorates the synaptic plasticity, social memory, and attentional deficits, we observed in this model (Harony-Nicolas et al., eLife, 2017).
Dr. Harony-Nicolas’s research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which ASD-associated mutations lead to the manifestation of behavioral deficits, with an emphasis on the effect of these mutations on the brain oxytocin system, known as a major modulator of mammalian social behavior, and on brain circuits of social behavior. Her lab applies integrated molecular and behavioral neuroscience approaches and uses transgenic rat models for ASD and neurodevelopmental disorders to identify molecular targets for treatment and to uncover altered brain circuits that can be manipulated with circuit-specific non-invasive interventions.
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