Adriana Cushnie

Entering Class - 2017

E-MAIL: [email protected]

PhD 2023

PhD Thesis

Combining Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs and Resting-State Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to study the Salience Network in Nonhuman Primates.

Undergraduate Institution and Major:

Brooklyn College – CUNY, BS, Psychology, 2017

Graduate Advisor:

Sarah Heilbronner, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience

Graduate Research:

I am studying anatomical connectivity to understand neural circuits that are involved in motivation and decision making.

Graduate Publications:

  • Cushnie AK, Wei T, Heilbronner SR. Connecting circuits with functional networks in addition neuroscience: a salience network perspective. Int J Mol Sci. 2023 May 22;24(10):9083.
  • Hill-Jarrett TG, Ng R, Cardenas-Iniguez C, Akinsanya J, Blanco I, Borland JM, Brown JS, Clemons T, Cushnie AK, Garcia J, George B, Hassinan CW, Hines TJ, Landayan D, McCorkle TA, Meckel KR, Metcalfe M, Montoya SA, Rose DK, Warren DR. A developmental approach to diversifying neuroscience through effective mentorship practices: perspectives on cross-identity mentorship and a critical call to action. Front Integr Neurosci. 2023 Feb 8;17:1052418.
  • Cushnie AK, Bullock DN, Manea AMG, Tang W, Zimmermann J, Heilbronner SR. The use of chemogenetic actuator ligands in nonhuman primate DREADDs-fMRI. Curr Res Neurobiol. 2022 Dec 30;4:100072.
  • Cushnie AK, El-Nahal HG, Bohlen MO, May PJ, Basso MA, Grimaldi P, Wang MZ, de Velasco EMF, Sommer MA, Heilbronner SR. Using rAAV2-retro in rhesus macaques: Promise and caveats for circuit manipulation. J Neurosci Methods. 2020 Jul 12:108859.

Graduate Awards

  • American Legion Brain Science Award at the University of Minnesota 2022
  • Sping and Ying Ngoh Lin Award, the University of Minnesota, Department of Neuroscience 2022
  • National Institute of Mental Health R36 Research Dissertation Award 2022-2023
  • The University of Minnesota Informatics Institute MnDRIVE Assistantship Award 2021-2022
  • Neuroscience Scholar Program Associate, Society of Neuroscience 2020-2022
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse T32 Trainee Appointment 2019-2021
  • University of Minnesota Medical School Graduate Fellowship 2017

Thesis Committee Members:

Lucy Vulchanova, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience (Chair)
Sarah Heilbronner, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience 
Jan Zimmermann, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience
Scott Sponheim, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry


Nicola Grissom, Ph.D., Department of Psychology
Michael-Paul Schallmo, Ph.D. and Scott Sponheim, Ph.D., Department of Psychology
Sarah Heilbronner, Ph.D., Department of Neuroscience

Undergraduate or Postbac Research:

I worked on a projected that  characterized how the acquisition of a place memory changes the function of particular synaptic circuits within the mouse hippocampus.

Undergraduate Awards:

Dean's List: Fall 2014-Spring 2017

Brooklyn College NIH MARC Scholar Fall 2015-Spring 2017

What Got You Interested In Research?

I have always been interested in understanding brain/behavior relationships, particularly questions targeting biological and behavioral factors that are involved in the development and organization of the brain.

Why did you choose the GPN?

The Graduate Program in Neuroscience offers me the research tools I need to pursue my interests.

Student mentor and their best advice:

Reshma Gore has offered too many to decide which is the best, but she has always been extremely helpful and supportive.

Favorite Itasca memory:

Biking around the park was fun. 


cushnie 2018