Susanne Ahmari, MD, PhD

Susanne Ahmari, MD, PhD

Principal Investigator

Dr. Susanne Ahmari completed her post-doctoral work with Dr. Rene Hen at Columbia University in 2013, when she was hired for a tenure-track position in the Psychiatry Department at University of Pittsburgh. As a practicing psychiatrist, Dr. Ahmari is highly motivated to conduct translational neuroscience research that can eventually inform better treatments for OCD patients. As a PI, Dr. Ahmari embraces the motto “work hard, play hard”, is a huge fan of Secret Groundhog’s Day (Secret Santa in February), and can routinely be found around the lab with donuts and/or celebratory Mezcal.
Elizabeth Manning, PhD
Post-Doctoral Associate

American Australian Association Fellowship

Lizzie graduated with B.S. from University of Melbourne in 2009 and completed her PhD with Maarten van den Buuse at University of Melbourne in 2014. She’s interested in the disruption of flexible decision-making in mental health disorders and prefrontal cortex contributions to complex behaviors. Her current project utilizes in vivo one photon calcium imaging and operant behavior to record prefrontal cortical neural activity during flexible decision-making and compulsive behaviors in the Sapap3-KO mice.

Manning, E.E. & Ahmari, S.E. (2018) How can preclinical mouse models be used to gain insight into prefrontal cortex dysfunction in obsessive-compulsive disorder? Brain and Neuroscience Advances

Manning, E.E. (2016) There is much to be learned from animal models of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Biological Psychiatry.

Jesse Wood, PhD
Post-Doctoral Scholar

National Research Service Award – NIMH F32

Jesse graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2007 and completed his PhD with Bita Moghaddam at University of Pittsburgh in 2014. He’s interested in understanding the role of prefrontal cortex, striatum, and dopamine systems in habitual and goal-directed selection and organization of behaviors. His current project uses in vivo electrophysiology and optogenetics to investigate neuroplastic changes in synchrony induce by optogenetic axon terminal stimulation.

Wood, J., Simon, N.W., Koerner, F.S., Kass, R.E. & Moghaddam, B. (2017) Networks of VTA neurons encode real-time information about uncertain numbers of actions executed to earn a reward. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience

Wood, J. & Ahmari, S.E. (2015) A framework for understanding the emergeing role of corticolimbic-ventral striatal networks in OCD-associated repetitive behaviors. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience

Britny Hildebrandt, PhD
Post-Doctoral Fellow

National Research Service Award – Brain Initiative F32

Britny graduated from Florida State University in 2009 and completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology with Kelly Klump at Michigan State University in 2017. She’s interested in habitual and goal-directed behavior in eating disorders and binge eating. Her current project uses mouse behavior and immunohistochemistry to neural changes associated with repetitive binge eating over time.

Hildebrandt, B.A., Klump, K.L., Racine, S.E, & Sisk, C.L. (2014) Differential strain vunerability to binge eating behavior in rats. Physiology and Behavior

Hildebrandt, B.A., Sinclair, E.B., Sisk, C.L., & Klump, K.L. (2018) Exploring reward system responsivity in the nucleus accumbens across chronicity of binge eating in female rats. International Journal of Eating Disorders

Victoria Corbit
National Research Service Award – NIMH F31

Victoria graduated with a B.S. in Neuroscience from Lafayette College in 2013, and became co-mentored by Dr. Ahmari and Dr. Aryn Gittis in 2014. She’s interested in the integration of motor and associative/limbic information in cortico-basal ganglia circuitry. Her current project utilizes acute slice physiology, optogenetics, and mouse behavior to identify abnormalities in corticostriatal input associated with compulsive grooming in the Sapap3-KO mice.

Corbit, V.L., Ahmari, S.E. & Gittis, A.H. (2017) A corticostriatal balancing act supports skill learning. Neuron

Corbit, V.L., Whalen, T.C., …, Rubin, J.E., & Gittis, A.H. (2016) Pallidostriatal projections promote beta oscillations in a dopamine-depleted biophysical network model. Journal of Neuroscience

Sean Piantadosi
PhD Student

Sean graduated with a B.A. from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2010. He’s interested in striatal control of compulsive behaviors and the molecular underpinnings of neuropsychiatric disorders and treatments. His current project utilizes in vivo single-photon calcium imaging and behavioral pharmacology to assess the contribution of striatal neuron activity to compulsive behaviors in the Sapap3-KO mice.

Piantadosi, S.C., French, B.J., … Sibille, E. (2016) Sex-dependent anti-stress effect of an α5 subunit containing GABAA receptor positive allosteric modulator. Frontiers in Pharmacology

Piantadosi, S.C. & Ahmari, S.E. (2015) Using optogenetics to dissect the neural circuits underlying OCD and related disorders. Current Treatment Opinions in Psychiatry

Zoe LaPalombara
PhD Student

National Research Service Award – NIMH F31

Zoe graduated with a B.S. from Yale University in 2013, and joined the Ahmari Lab in 2015. She’s interested in fear processing and the intersection of compulsive behaviors and anxiety. Her current project uses fiber photometry and mouse behavior to investigate the neural underpinnings of enhanced fear conditioning in the Sapap3-KO mice.

Wood, J., LaPalombara, Z., & Ahmari, S.E. (2018) Monoamine abnormalities in the SAPAP3 knockout model of obsessive-compulsive disorder-related behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B

Land, B.B., …, LaPalombara, Z., & Dileone, R.J. (2014) Optogenetic inhibition of neurons by internal light production. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience

Jared Kopelman
MD/PhD Student

National Research Service Award – NIMH F30

Jared graduated with a B.A. from Pomona College in 2011 and joined the Ahmari Lab in 2015 as part of the University of Pittsburgh MD/PhD program. His current project uses mouse behavioral analyses, optogenetics, and in situ hybridization to investigate the role of Slc1a1 in OCD-relevant behaviors.

Zike, I.D., Chohan, M.O., Kopelman, J.M., …, Ahmari, S.E., & Veenstra-VanderWeele, J. (2017) OCD candidate gene SLC1A1/EAAT3 impacts basal ganglia-mediated activity and stereotypic behavior. PNAS

Reber, S.O., …, Kopelman, J.M., …, & Lowry, C.A. (2016) Immunization with a heat-killed preparation of the environmentral bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae promotes stress resilience in  mice. PNAS

Xiaojun Li
Visiting Undergraduate Student

Xiaojun is a visiting student from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China (graduation expected 2022). She is interested in action selection in frontostriatal circuits, and she is currently working with both Dr. Jesse Wood and Dr. Lizzie Manning on projects investigating habitual behavior and contribution of LOFC to compulsive behaviors.

Ruth Synder
Lab Technician

Ruth was a former undergraduate student in the lab and has become the lab technician after graduating University of Pittsburgh in 2017. She is trained in freely moving in vivo electrophysiology and is currently working on a project investigate thalamocortical circuits and their role in compulsive behavior. She is planning to attend graduate school in the coming year.

Jamie Pierson
Lab Manager

Jamie graduated with a B.A. from Miami University in 2009 and completed her PhD at the same institute in 2015. She manages the lab administrative affairs and acts in part as a lab technician, with experience in behavioral analyses, autoradiography, immunohistochemistry, PCR, RNA extractions, and mouse colony management.

Pierson, J.L., Pullins, S.E., & Quinn, J.J. (2015) Dorsal hippocampus infusions of CNQX into the dentate gyrus disrupt expression of trace fear conditioning. Hippocampus

Quinn, J.J., …, Pierson, J.L., & Taylor, J.R. (2013) Striatum-dependent habits are insensitive to both increases and decreases in reinforce value in mice. European Journal of Neuroscience


Vinayak Banerjee

Brittany Chamberlain

Leela Ekambarapu

Shirley Jiang

Sravan Kanuparthi

Srividhya Madireddy

Samyuktha Manikandan

Linda Saikali

Julia St. John

Lab Alumni

James Hyde, PhD (post-doctoral associate) – Assistant Professor of Biology at Southern Arkansas University

Junyue Shen, BS (Tsinghua University visiting student) – MD candidate, Tsinghua University

Anna Winner, BS (undergraduate researcher) – DVM candidate at College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University

Canada Montgomery, BS (undergraduate researcher) – MD Candidate at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Abigail Wang, BS (undergraduate researcher) – MD Candidate at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine