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Search Program Faculty/Research

David A. Morilak, Ph.D.

Morilak photo


Dr. David Morilak’s research addresses the neurobiology of stress and its negative impact on health and brain function. He studies how the brain adapts to effectively cope with stress; how chronic stress can lead to serious psychiatric disorders, including depression, PTSD and other illnesses; and his laboratory investigates new and more effective therapeutic strategies for the treatment of such disorders. Approaches span the molecular to the behavioral, incorporating measures of gene and protein expression, receptor function and signal transduction, neurotransmitter release, and behavioral assays for anxiety, coping strategies, cognitive flexibility and stress reactivity in rats. Techniques include rtPCR, western blot, cell culture, in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry, microdialysis, stereotaxic surgery, intracerebral and systemic drug administration and behavioral pharmacology. His work is funded by grants from the NIH, DoD, VA, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Selected Publications

Fucich, E.A., Paredes, D., Morilak, D.A. (2016) Therapeutic effects of extinction learning as a model of exposure therapy in rats. Neuropsychopharmacology, 41: 3092-3102.

Jett, J.D., Bulin, S.E., Hatherall, L.C., McCartney, C.M., Morilak, D.A. (2017) Deficits in cognitive flexibility induced by chronic unpredictable stress are associated with impaired glutamate neurotransmission in the rat medial prefrontal cortex. Neuroscience, 346: 284-297.

Patton, M. S., Lodge, D. J., Morilak, D. A., Girotti, M. (2017). Ketamine corrects stress-induced cognitive dysfunction through JAK2/STAT3 signaling in the orbitofrontal cortexNeuropsychopharmacology, 42: 1220-1230.

Hatherall, L., Sanchez, C. and Morilak, D.A. (2017). Chronic vortioxetine treatment reduces exaggerated expression of conditioned fear memory and restores active coping behavior in chronically stressed rats. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol, 20: 316-323

Donegan JJ, Girotti M, Weinberg MS, Morilak DA. A novel role for brain interleukin-6: facilitation of cognitive flexibility in rat orbitofrontal cortex. J Neurosci. 2014 Jan 15;34(3):953-62.

Bingham BC, Sheela Rani CS, Frazer A, Strong R, Morilak DA. Exogenous prenatal corticosterone exposure mimics the effects of prenatal stress on adult brain stress response systems and fear extinction behavior. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Nov;38(11):2746-57.

Girotti M, Donegan JJ, Morilak DA. Influence of hypothalamic IL-6/gp130 receptor signaling on the HPA axis response to chronic stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Jul;38(7):1158-69.

Jett JD, Morilak DA. Too much of a good thing: blocking noradrenergic facilitation in medial prefrontal cortex prevents the detrimental effects of chronic stress on cognition. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013 Mar;38(4):585-95.

Furr A, Lapiz-Bluhm MD, Morilak DA. 5-HT2A receptors in the orbitofrontal cortex facilitate reversal learning and contribute to the beneficial cognitive effects of chronic citalopram treatment in rats. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2012 Oct;15(9):1295-305.



Ph.D., Neuroscience/Psychology, Princeton University, 1986

M.A., Neuroscience/Psychology, Princeton University, 1984

B.A., Psychology, Muskingum College, 1982




Research Profile
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Graduate Students

Samantha Adler

Alexandra Sharp 

Denisse Paredes