Rachel Penrod-Martin

Ph.D. 2012

Thesis Title:

Morphological characterization of medium spiny neuron development in vitro

Current Position:

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Integrative Neurobiology Lab, McLean Hospital Harvard Medical School

Undergraduate Institution and Major/Degree:

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, BA/BS, Psychology, 2005

Major Advisor(s):

Research Description:

I am interested in the cytoskeletal mechanisms of dendritic spine development and plasticity.  My current research takes advantage of a striatal/cortical neuron co-culture system to study the development and plasticity of the striatal Medium Spiny Neuron spines.  I use primary cell culture, immunofluorescent imaging, and morphometric analysis to investigate dendritic spine dynamics.  I also use molecular biology techniques to generate plasmid DNAs to express specific proteins of interest.

Lab Rotations:

  • Mark Thomas
  • Paul Mermelstein
  • Lorene Lanier

Courses Taken Beyond the Core Courses:

  • PHCL 8207 Seminar in Psychopharmacology
  • PSY 5061 Neurobiology of Behavior
  • GCD 8161 Advanced Developmental Biology
  • PHCL 8208 Neuropsychopharmacology
  • PHCL 5462 Neuroscience Principles of Drug Abuse
  • NSC 8320 Developmental Biology Journal Club
  • NSC 8320 Neurostatistics

Conferences Attended:

  • Society for Neuroscience annual meeting 2004-2006 & 2009
  • Midwestern Psychology Association annual meeting 2006
  • Cold Spring Harbor Lab meeting: Axon guidance, Synaptogenesis, and Neural Plasticity - Fall 2008, 2010

Committee Members:

  • Paul Mermelstein - Chair
  • Lorene Lanier - Advisor
  • Mark Thomas - Co-Advisor
  • Stan Thayer
  • Sean Conner

Selected Publications:

  • Penrod RD, Campagna J, Panneck T, Kearney E, Amar F, Peterson B, Lanier LM (in preparation) Morphological analysis of medium spiny neuron development in vitro
  • Maldonado M, Penrod RD, Rajkovich K, Mellor R, Lanier LM (in preparation) Arp2/3 activity regulates dendritic spine head maturation, glutamate-induced actin reorganization, and ischemic tolerance pre-conditioning in cultured hippocampal neurons.
  • Penrod RD, Kourrich S, Kearney E, Thomas MJ, Lanier LM (2011). An embryonic culture system for the investigation of striatal medium spiny neuron dendritic spine development and plasticity. J Neurosci Methods, 200(1): 1-13
  • Murray JE, Walker AW, Li C, Wells NR, Penrod RD, Bevins RA (2011). Nicotine trained as a negative feature passes the retardation-of-acquisition and summation tests of a conditioned inhibitor. Learn Mem, 18(7): 452-8
  • Hoover BR, Reed MN, Su J, Penrod RD, Kotilinek LA, Grant MK, Pitstick R, Carlson GA, Lanier LM, Yuan LL, Ashe KH, Liao D (2010). Tau mislocalization to dendritic spines mediates synaptic dysfunction independently of neurodegeneration. Neuron, 68(6): 1067-81
  • Murray JE, Penrod RD, Bevins RA (2009). Nicotine-evoked conditioned responding is dependent on concentration of sucrose unconditioned stimulus.  Behav Processes, 81(1): 136-9
  • Bevins RA, Penrod RD, Reichel CM (2007). Nicotine does not produce state-dependent effects on learning in a Pavlovian appetitive goal tracking task with rats. Behav Brain Res, 177(1): 134-41
  • Wilkinson JL, Murray JE, Li C, Wiltgen SM, Penrod RD, Berg SA, Bevins RA (2006). Interoceptive Pavlovian conditioning with nicotine as the conditional stimulus varies as a function of the number of conditioning trials and unpaired sucrose deliveries. Behav Pharmacol, 17(2): 161-72
  • Peer JE, Rothmann TL, Penrod RD, Penn DL, Spaulding WD (2004). Social cognitive bias and neurocognitive deficit in paranoid symptoms: evidence for an interaction effect and changes during treatment. Schizophr Res, 71(2-3): 463-71


  • Penrod RD , Xu X, Lanier L. AFAP-120 regulates axonal polarity, outgrowth, and branching. Developmental Biology Center: Tubes, Branches, and Pumps in Development, Minneapolis, MN, September 2008
  • Penrod RD , Xu X, Lanier L. AFAP-120 regulates axonal polarity, outgrowth, and branching. Cold Spring Harbor Lab Meeting: Axon Guidance, Synaptogenesis, and Neural Plasticity, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, September 2008
  • Penrod RD , Maldonado M, Xu X, & Lanier L. Techniques for the study of dendritic spine development and maintenance in vitro. 12th annual Graduate Program in Neuroscience Retreat, Minneapolis, MN, Feburary 2008
  • Penrod RD , Reichel CM, & Bevins RA. A test of state-dependency's role in a Pavlovian drug discrimination task with nicotine. 36th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Atlanta, GA, November 2006
  • Penrod, RD , Reichel, CM, & Bevins, RA. A test of state-dependency's role in an interoceptive conditioning task with a nicotine cue. 78th Midwestern Psychological Association annual meeting, Chicago IL, May 2006
  • Wilkinson JL, Penrod RD , Murray JE & Bevins RA. Conditioned stimulus effects of nicotine: bupropion substitution and the effects of sucrose concentration. 35th meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Washington, DC, November 2005
  • Murray JE, Wilkinson JL, Berg SA, Penrod RD , Li CJ, Wiltgen SM & Bevins RA. Nicotine as a conditional stimulus: Factors affecting acquisition and extinction. 77th Midwestern Psychological Association Conference, Chicago IL, May 2005.

Awards and Honors:

  • NIDA Training Grant trainee, 2007 to 2012
  • Stark Award for travel to Gordon Conference on the Dendrite, 2011
  • Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, 2011 to 2012
  • Center for Neurobehavioral Development Seed Grant, 2011 to 2012

Professional Memberships:

  • Society for Neuroscience 2005-present

Home Town:

  • Lincoln, Nebraska
Rachel Penrod-Martin