Rachel Penrod-Martin

Ph.D. 2012

Thesis Title:

Morphological characterization of medium spiny neuron development in vitro

Current Position:

Research Assistant Professor, Medical University of South Carolina

Past Position(s):

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 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, Preese L, Lanier LM. The presence of cortical neurons in striatal-cortical co-cultures alters the effects of dopamine and BDNF on medium spiny neuron dendritic development. Front Cell Neurosci. 2015 Jul 20;9:269.
  • Penrod RD, Kourrich S, Kearney E, Thomas MJ, Lanier LM. An embryonic culture system for the investigation of striatal medium spiny neuron dendritic spine development and plasticity. J Neurosci Methods, 2011;200(1):1-13
  • Murray JE, Walker AW, Li C, Wells NR, Penrod RD, Bevins RA. Nicotine trained as a negative feature passes the retardation-of-acquisition and summation tests of a conditioned inhibitor. Learn Mem. 12011;8(7): 452-82.
  • Hoover BR, Reed MN, Su J, Penrod RD, Kotilinek LA, Grant MK, Pitstick R, Carlson GA, Lanier LM, Yuan LL, Ashe KH, Liao D. Tau mislocalization to dendritic spines mediates synaptic dysfunction independently of neurodegeneration. Neuron 2010;68(6):1067-81
  • Murray JE, Penrod RD, Bevins RA. Nicotine-evoked conditioned responding is dependent on concentration of sucrose unconditioned stimulus.  Behav Processes, 2009;81(1):136-9
  • Bevins RA, Penrod RD, Reichel CM. Nicotine does not produce state-dependent effects on learning in a Pavlovian appetitive goal tracking task with rats. Behav Brain Res 2007;177(1): 134-41
  • Wilkinson JL, Murray JE, Li C, Wiltgen SM, Penrod RD, Berg SA, Bevins RA. 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, 2006;17(2): 61-72
  • Peer JE, Rothmann TL, Penrod RD, Penn DL, Spaulding WD. Social cognitive bias and neurocognitive deficit in paranoid symptoms: evidence for an interaction effect and changes during treatment. Schizophr Res. 2004;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