Behavioral Neuroscience Lab

About the lab

Our focus is behavior-driven plasticity in the damaged brain. The behavior that we primarily study is exercise. There are many neural benefits of exercise, including generation of new neurons and glial cells, creation of new blood vessels and increases in trophic molecules. Exercise is therefore an excellent means by which to maximize the health of the intact brain or improve the health of the damaged brain. Currently, the laboratory is focused on exercise-driven improvements following one of 2 forms of brain injury – binge alcohol exposure or radiation. Binge drinking is a common alcohol use disorder in the United States and has been shown to cause lasting damage to white and gray matter. We are investigating the neuroprotective effects of exercise before and after binge damage. Cranial radiotherapy is a component of treatment for brain cancer, including brain cancer in children. Although effective at eliminating tumors, radiotherapy damages the brain and disrupts development. We are presently investigating the neural benefits of exercise for radiation-induced damage in the developing brain.


  • J. Leigh Leasure, PI
  • Shaefali Rodgers, Post-doctoral fellow
  • Mark Maynard, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Emily Barton, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Iman Sahnoune, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Chasity Chung, Undergraduate Research Assistant
  • Katharine Nelson, Undergraduate Research Assistant
  • Aisha Shamsi, Undergraduate Research Assistant