Arun Asok

Assistant Professor
Psychology

Ph.D., University of Delaware, 2016

Website: www.asoklab.com

Key Areas of Interest

Memory, Emotion, Stress

Learned and Innate Fear

Systems, Molecular, and Behavioral Neuroscience

Teaching and Research Interests

Our lab is focused on identifying how the neural networks of learned and innate fear overlap, differ, and interact. We are particularly interested in how hard-wired brain circuits and dynamic molecular networks control defensive behaviors in laboratory animals. In pursuit of these interests, we use a number of cutting-edge techniques in animal behavior, closed-loop optogenetics, next-generation gene sequencing, CRISPR-Cas gene editing, in vivo calcium imaging, and network computational approaches. The overarching translational goal of our work is to identify how fear, anxiety, and trauma-related mental-health disorders emerge and persist across time.

Some of the specific questions we are working on to answer are:

  • Which circuits co-control learned and innate fear?
  • Which neural networks, circuits, and genes control the strength of a learned fear memory?
  • Do brain-wide molecular networks exhibit a topological structure to represent a learned fear differently from an innate fear?
  • Are there key hub genes within these topologically-structured molecular networks that intrinsically differentiate between learned and innate fear?

Selected Recent Publications

Scherma, M., Qvist, J. S., Asok, A., Shao-shan, C. H., Masia, P., Deidda, M., ... Kandel, E. R. & Melas, P. M. (2020). Cannabinoid exposure in rat adolescence reprograms the initial behavioral, molecular, and epigenetic response to cocaine. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(18), 9991-10002. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1920866117

Asok, A., Leroy, F., Rayman, J. B., & Kandel, E. R. (2019). Molecular mechanisms of the memory trace. Trends in neurosciences, 42(1), 14-22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tins.2018.10.005

Asok, A., Kandel, E. R., & Rayman, J. B. (2019). The neurobiology of fear generalization. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 12, 329. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00329

Asok, A., Hijazi, J., Harvey, L. R., Kosmidis, S., Kandel, E. R., & Rayman, J. B. (2019). Sex differences in remote contextual fear generalization in mice. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 13, 56. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00056

Leroy, F., Park, J., Asok, A., Brann, D. H., Meira, T., Boyle, L. M., ... & Siegelbaum, S. A. (2018). A circuit from hippocampal CA2 to lateral septum disinhibits social aggression. Nature, 564(7735), 213-218. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0772-0

Asok, A., Draper, A., Hoffman, A. F., Schulkin, J., Lupica, C. R., & Rosen, J. B. (2018). Optogenetic silencing of a corticotropin-releasing factor pathway from the central amygdala to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis disrupts sustained fear. Molecular psychiatry, 23(4), 914-922. https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2017.79