Shah Lab Awarded Grant for Research into the Neural Mechanisms of Major Transitions

April 3, 2023

Dr. Nirao Shah

We’re proud to share that Stanford Psychiatry’s Nirao Shah has received a research grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Dr. Shah is professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, of neurobiology and, by courtesy, of obstetrics and gynecology.

The project, titled “Genomic and neural circuit characterization of interoceptive experience-modulated female behavior in mice,” focuses on  neural circuits in mice that are responsible for mediating transitions between reproductive behavior, territorial aggression and parental care. The goal of the study is to “characterize these neural circuits mechanistically in order to understand how they sense changes in peripheral, visceral reproductive organs to guide subsequent behavioral transitions,” writes Dr. Shah in the research abstract.

Dr. Shah’s team has identified a group of neurons in the female mouse brain that will be the focus of the study.

These neural circuits are very important for the long-term success of a species, but how neural circuits “sense and mediate these major transitions” is less clear to researchers. These findings may provide insight into human biology because of the behavioral and physiological changes that women undergo related to reproduction.

“Females of diverse species exhibit flexible changes in behavior in order to maximize their reproductive success and survival of their progeny,” writes Dr. Shah. “How particular neural circuits in the brain enable such flexible changes in behaviors is poorly understood but of vital importance to further well-being of mothers and their newborns.”

Dr. Shah leads the Shah Laboratory, where his research has identified ways nature and nurture control social behaviors. His research has implications for the understanding of behavioral manifestations of autism, dementia, mood disorders, and PTSD. Recent publications from the Shah Lab include “Hypothalamic neurons that mirror aggression” in Cell and “Oxytocin receptor is not required for social attachment in prairie voles” in Neuron.

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