University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Sarah Dickinson


School or College: 

College of Natural Sciences


Dr. Joseph Bergan


Sarah Dickinson (she/hers) is a PhD candidate in Neuroscience and Behavior, working with Dr. JosephBergan. Her current research seeks to understand how internal state (e.g. stressor development) can influence social, sensory integration. She is currently researching this through complementary anatomical and functional approaches and hopes that her research can provide more insight into neuroplasticity, social preference, and the effects of chronic stress.

Research Proposal Title: 

Vasopressin’s Control of Social, Sensory Stimuli Integration


Neural hormones, or peptides, are important markers for understanding behavior in the brain. I am interested in two neuropeptides, oxytocin and vasopressin, and how they modulate (1) each other and (2) the brain’s processing of social, sensory information. Oxytocin, vasopressin, and the neurons that release them are not inherently social, but they shape social behavior and social memory by modulating how many different neural centers react to social stimuli. This relationship makes both neuropeptides important agents for social salience. My research seeks to understand how these two peptides assign social salience on a mechanistic level, as well as how this can change in different contexts such as stress and development. In the long term, I hope my work can inform ongoing medical/ psychiatric use of these two peptides and provide broader insight into what effects social exposure can have in different developmental and environmental contexts.

GSGW Academic Year: