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School of Medicine

Neuron microscopy

Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience

Our mission is to provide expert instruction and conduct innovative research in neuroscience, physiology and pharmacology. Our faculty members teach students of medicine, nurse anesthesia, physician assistants and biomedical science in the classroom and the laboratory. 

We have an active research focus in the neuroscience research and take full advantage of the University of South Carolina's status as a Tier 1 research university. Using cutting edge technology to aid in the understanding of neuropsychiatric and neurologic disorders, we provide insight into new treatment strategies and targets for these devastating diseases.

The faculty work across disciplines in numerous collaborative projects, and we have a strong neuroscience research portfolio with over $10 million dollars in extramurally funded research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), the Veterans Administration and numerous foundations and endowment funds, including the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and the American Heart Association. 


Faculty Research 

Our dedicated faculty are leaders in research spanning a wide range of neuroscience-based areas including activities focus on the roles of specific molecules in cellular function and their importance to organismal physiology and behavior. Their work is published in high quality publications in high tier journals such as Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Biological Psychiatry, Molecular Psychiatry, Brain, Behavior & Immunity, PLoS One, Journal of Neuroscience, Diabetes, Neuroscience, Nanotechnology, Psychopharmacology and Experimental Neurology.

Anxiety, Depression, & Stress Disorders
Complications of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolic Disorders
Disorders of Cognition and Aging
Neuroimmune Regulation
Seizure Disorders
Stress and Cardiovascular Control
Alcohol and Drugs of Abuse



Faculty Awards
  • Jim Fadel promoted to professor
  • Pavel Ortinski was elected as an associate member of American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP)
  • Dr. Susan Wood is a 2018 USC Breakthrough Star
  • Dr. Norma Frizzell is promoted to associate professor with tenure
  • Larry Reagan, Claudia Grillo and their labs interviewed by a Japanese Public TV station (NHK) for a show on the brain
  • Susan Wood received a 2017 NARSAD Young Investigator Award. This is a two-year grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation entitled, "Identifying the neuroinflammatory pathways driving increased stress susceptibility in females".
  • Seungjin Shin, Director of the Viral Vector Core, receives a Pilot Project from the COBRE Center for Targeted Therapeutics.
  • Dr. Claudia Grillo receives a National Science Foundation (NSF) award for $900,000 to study the brain circuits that control feeding behavior
  • Britt Wilson receives the 2017 M1 Teacher of the Year Award for his efforts in medical education
  • Larry Reagan receives the 2017 M2 Teacher of the Year Award for his efforts in medical education
  • Britt Wilson receives the O'Neill Barrett Teaching Excellence Award from Class of 2017
Student Awards
  • Julie Finnell (Susan Wood mentor) is a 2018 Breakthrough Scholar
  • Victoria Macht (Lawrence Reagan and Sandra Kelly mentors) is a 2018 Breakthrough Scholar
  • PPN Hosts two SPARC awardees:
    • Richard McCain (Norma Frizzell Mentor): 2018 SPARC award entitled, “Intracellular Stress Responses Underlying Models of Mitochondrial Neurodegenerative Disease” 
    • Sarah Tryon (David Mott, Mentor): 2018 SPARC award through Exercise Science entitled, “Modulation of Glutamatergic Neurotransmission to the Basolateral Amygdala by Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptors” 
  • Four new PPN Magellan Scholars:
    • Hanson Cowan (Claudia Grillo, Lawrence Reagan mentors) will study “Insulin's effect on hippocampal neuron morphology”
    • Caroline McLeod (Ken Walsh mentor) will study the “Identification of Somatostatin-dependent Regulators of Neuronal K+ Channels"
    • Macey Johnson (Norma Frizzell mentor) will study “Evaluating the Effects of Adipose Tissue Fumarase Knockout in the Development of Diabetes”
    • Bryan Fitzgerald (Norma Frizzell mentor) will study “Investigating Protein Thiol Oxidation as a Consequence of Mitochondrial Complex I Inhibition”
  • Julie Finnell (Susan Wood mentor) receives a two-year 2017 Predoctoral Fellowship award from the American Heart Association (AHA).
  • Julie Finnell (Susan Wood mentor) received a poster presentation award at the European Behavioral Pharmacology Society Meeting in Crete, Greece
  • Allison Manuel (Norma Frizzell mentor) successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation entitled Succination Impairs Protein Folding and Promotes CHOP Stability in the Adipocyte during Diabetes".
  • Allison Manuel receives Dean Barnhart Award for outstanding contributions as a Biomedical Sciences Graduate Student, USC School of Medicine, Columbia, SC. April 2017
  • Akhila Padi (Susan Wood mentor): 2017 ASPET Undergraduate Best Abstract Award, 2nd place, Behavioral Pharmacology Division, Experimental Biology meeting, Chicago IL
  • Julie Finnell (Susan Wood mentor) 2017 ASPET Graduate Student Best Abstract Award, 1st place, Behavioral Pharmacology Division, Experimental Biology meeting, Chicago IL


Core Courses

Medical Pharmacology PHPH D631 (7)

A spring semester, second-year course for medical students covering the major areas of medical pharmacology. Includes principles of drug action, pharmacodynamics and pharmacodynamics, plus autonomic, renal, cardiovascular, CNS, and endocrine pharmacology, chemotherapy and toxicology. Emphasis is placed on the effects of drugs on pathological and physiological processes as well as on the biochemical mechanisms by which drugs act. Instruction include lecture, case-based discussion/presentation, problem-solving exercises and small-group discussion.

Medical Physiology PHPH D621 (7)

A spring semester, first-year course for medical students that integrates essential concepts and facts about human physiology. This course covers the following areas of physiology: biophysics, neuromuscular, endocrine, autonomic, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, respiratory and reproduction. Emphasis is placed on understanding and applying physiological processes and concepts. Instruction includes lecture, computer-assisted instruction, problem-solving exercises, clinical correlations and small-group discussion.  

Medical Neuroscience PHPHD603 (4)

A spring semester, first-year course for medical students that provides a foundation in the anatomy and physiology of the human nervous system needed to understand the signs and symptoms of neurological injury and to localize such injuries accurately. Includes study of the spinal cord, brain stem, cerebral hemispheres and fiber systems, thalamus, hypothalamus, limbic system, blood supply and ventricular system as well as sensory and motor systems, ocular movements, visual reflexes and higher cortical function. Instruction include lectures, hands-on laboratory sessions using human material, sections through the brain and spinal cord correlated with MRI images, laboratory based problem-solving exercises and clinical correlations presented by practicing physicians in neurology, neurosurgery, neuro-ophthalmology and neuro-otology.

Biomedical Pharmacology PHPH 705 (6)

This cours covers principles of drug action plus autonomic (adrenergic/cholinergic), cardiovascular, renal, central nervous system, endocrine and antimicrobial pharmacology, cancer chemotherapy and toxicology. Primarily for health sciences graduate students.

Fundamental Neuroscience I PHPH 750 (4)

This graduate course provides an integrated foundation in neuroanatomical and neurophysiological principles from a research-oriented perspective. Instruction includes both lectures and hands-on laboratory experiences.

Fundamental Neuroscience II PHPH 751 (4)

This graduate course provides a basic introduction to the fundamental aspects of common neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases. Students will learn of recent research into the mechanisms of these disorders, gain an understanding of the clinical presentation of each disorder and gain an appreciation for the utility of animal models of human neurological disorders. This course is intended to broaden students' understanding of neuroscience and mechanisms underlying common neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases.

Neuroscience PHPH 740 (4)

This graduate course explores the major areas of developmental and cellular neurobiology, including cell-type determination, axon guidance, synapse formation, axonal transport, excitable cells and membranes, ion channels and receptors, synaptic transmission and neural plasticity. The class is designed to provide students with an in-depth knowledge of neuroscience and the ability to use this information to consider current scientific questions.

Neuroscience Seminar PHPH 742 (1)

Presentation and group discussion of professional development topics for scientists. Focus on improvement of critical thinking and scientific writing skills, as well as development of research ideas, grant writing, public speaking and career development.

Physiology for Health Sciences PHPH701(6)

This graduate course covers major organ systems with emphasis on basic physiological processes and control systems. The course covers biophysics, neuromuscular, endocrine, autonomic, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, respiratory and reproductive physiology. Emphasis is placed on understanding and applying physiological processes and concepts. Primarily for health sciences graduate students.


Biomedical Sciences: Neuroscience Concentration

The Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience also supports a neuroscience concentration for Biomedical Science Ph.D. students.