University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Karine Fénelon

Karine Fénelon
Assistant Professor, Biology Department


School or College: 

College of Natural Sciences


Dr. Karine Fénelon, Assistant Professor, Biology Department, is a trained neurophysiologist. She completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at McGill University where she studied the effect of hypoxia on the circadian oscillations of body temperature and oxygen consumption. Her Master’s in muscle Physiology and Biophysics focussed on the cellular mechanisms underlying excitation-contraction coupling, using frog cut skeletal muscle fibers. She completed her PhD in Neuroscience during which she worked on understanding the control of locomotion by brainstem neurons, using lampreys as an experimental system. She completed postdoctoral training at Columbia University Medical Center and worked with mouse models of schizophrenia to understand how psychiatric disorders affect the function of the central nervous system. Her lab focuses on understanding the brainstem mechanisms underlying sensorimotor gating, a fundamental brain mechanism.

Research Proposal Title: 

Functional investigation of Brain Mechanisms underlying Sensorimotor Gating altered by Psychiatric Disorders


Dr. Fenelon’s team will investigate the brain circuits and celular mechanisms by which sensorimotor gating occurs. Sensorimotor gating is a fundamental brain mechanism that, if reduced, is associated with and often predictive of attention impairment, cognitive overload and motor problems. In humans and translational models, the behavioral test to study sensorimotor gating is called prepulse inhibition (PPI). PPI occurs when a weak stimulus is presented prior to an alarming stimulus reduces the startle response to this alarming stimulus. Reduced PPI is a hallmark of schizophrenia but is also seen in other neurological and psychiatric disorders. Therefore, PPI is a behavioral paradigm that can indicate impairment of sensorimotor gating associated with neurological and psychiatric disorders. Results for these experiments will lead to the identification of brain cells and pathways underlying PPI deficits linked to neurological diseases as promising drug targets that could be stimulated in patients that are unresponsive to current pharmaceuticals.