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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.


PPN News

  • Michy Kelly received an NIH award totaling over $2.3 million for her research on "Role of cyclic nucleotide signaling in age-related decline of social memories"
  • Britt Wilson received the Arthur C. Guyton educator of the year award from the American Physiological Society.
  • David Mott received the Distinguished Research Service award from the USC Office of Research
  • Shayne Barlow, PPN faculty and Attending Veterinarian and Director of the Department of Laboratory Animal Resources received the 2018 Education Foundation Outstanding Service Award
  • Britt Wilson is selected as the M1 Teacher of the Year by first year medical students.
  • Susan Wood receives NIH Award totaling over $2 million in total funding entitled: Estrogen mediated mechanisms of stress susceptibility
  • Chris Wood is the newly appointed Assistant Director of Development for Corporate and Foundation Relations at USC.  Congrats!
  • Susan Wood has been approved as a new associate editor for JPET (Journal of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics).
  • Michy Kelly- 2018 Distinguished Research Service Award from VP for Research- for exceptional commitment to USC's research community
  • Larry Reagan receives an award for over $400,000 from the Veterans Administration (VA) for purchasing a Quantum CX microCT Imaging System

PPN receives three USC ASPIRE AWARDS:

  • Norma Frizzell is PI of an ASPIRE III ($100,000) for Acquisition of State-of-the-Art Nanospray Ion Sources to Expand the Proteomics Capabilities of the USC Mass Spectrometry Core
  • Pavel Ortinski is PI of an ASPIRE II team ($100,000) including Jill Turner, Jeff Twiss and Marlene Wilson for Identifying molecular substrates of motivation in health and disease
  • Jim Fadel and Larry Reagan received an ASPIRE I (Track IV) award entitled Intranasal insulin administration increases hippocampal acetylcholine levels

  • Katy Pilarzyk (Michy Kelly mentor) was awarded a 2019 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Rearch Fellowship.  This highly competitive 3-year fellowship provides an annual stipend of $34,000 plus an annual cost of education allowance of $12,000.
  • Cole Calva (Jim Fadel mentor) successfully defended his doctoral dissertation.
  • Nguyen Vu (David Mott mentor) successfully defended her master's thesis.
  • Melinda Hersey (Reagan and Hashemi labs) received honorable mention for her presentation at the W. Morgan Newton graduate research symposium.
  • Katy Pilarzyk (Michy Kelly mentor) was awarded a 2018-2019 SPARC Graduate Research grant from the Office of Research to support her research on the effects of social isolation.
  • Reagan Farmer (Michy Kelly mentor) receives Magellan Scholar award and Magellan mini-grant for her research.
  • David Smith (Michy Kelly mentor) receives Magellan  mini-grant to fund his research
  • Christopher “Grant” Morgan (Susan Wood mentor) receives Magellan Galen grant for summer research.
  • Stephanie Martin (Norma Frizzell Mentor) successfully defended her Master’s thesis.
  • Victoria Macht (Sandra Kelly and Larry Reagan mentors) successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled: Neurochemistry, Physiology and Behavior in a Model of Gulf War Illness
  • Courtney Pinard, PhD (class of 2009) received the Distinguished Doctorate Alumni Award.  Dr. Pinard completed her doctoral work on amygdalar anatomy with Alex McDonald. 
  • Julie Finnell (Susan Wood Mentor) receives Third Place Graduate and Post-baccalaureate Student Poster Award from the Division for Behavioral Pharmacology of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). This was awarded at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, CA in April 2018. 
  • Welcome to Leandro Augusto de Oliveira, a visiting PhD student in Physiological Sciences at State University of São Paulo-UNESP (Araraquara, São Paulo, Brazil) working under supervision of Professor Carlos C. Crestani.  Leandro is a fellow of the FAPESP research agency. 

PPN has 18 presentations and takes numerous awards at DISCOVER USC:

  • Katy Pilarzyk (Michy Kelly mentor):  A role for PDE11A in social isolation-induced neuroinflammation:  Awarded Best Graduate Student Poster session M
  • Habiba Fayyaz (Jim Fadel mentor). Intranasal orexin-A administration increases neuronal activation of brain stem regions. First Place in afternoon Undergraduate Psychology and Neuroscience, poster session.
  • Casey Moffitt (Susan Wood mentor): Investigating the role of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system in inflammatory priming during social stress.  First Place in Neuroscience, Afternoon session.
  • Hanson Cowan (Claudia Grillo mentor) Insulin's Effect on Hippocampal Neuron Morphology, Second place poster award Psychology and Neuroscience, A (Morning Session). 
  • Maissy, Erica (Larry Reagan Mentor) Modeling Gulf War Illness: neuronal activation and transmission in the rat prefrontal cortex. Second place poster award Psychology and Neuroscience, F (Afternoon Session).
  • L Ande Hesser (Susan Wood mentor). Distinct differences in neuronal activation during stress predict enduring changes in corticotropin releasing factor in active and passive coping rats.  Second place poster award Psychology and Neuroscience, C (Morning Session). 
  • Akhila Padi (Susan Wood mentor): The role of resveratrol in the cardiovascular consequences of social stress. Second Place, Biology and Biomedical Sciences Category, Section D


Core Courses

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.