Allyson Friedman

2015 Regional Award Finalist — Post-Doc

Allyson Friedman

Current Position:
Assistant Professor

Hunter College, City University of New York (Previously at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)


Recognized for: Translational research examining ion channel mechanisms underlying depression

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Neurophysiology, Behavioral neuroscience, Psychiatric disorders, Neural circuitry


PhD, Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
BA , Biology, Barnard College, Columbia University

Dr. Friedman’s research seeks to reveal greatly needed mechanistically driven therapeutic targets to treat depression, a leading cause of disability worldwide.  In focusing on how some individuals are able to maintain healthy mental functioning in response to stress, her studies have revealed beneficial stress induced neural adaptations that occur within the mesolimbic reward circuit. Her studies demonstrate that resilience is achieved through homeostatically maintaining healthy dopamine neuron activity through a compensatory upregulation of potassium channels in response to excess hyperactivity of the ventral tegmental area neurons projecting to the nucleus accumbens. This work provided a conceptually new avenue for exploring depression treatment, in which an antidepressant effect is achieved through resilience-like homeostatic plasticity.

Dr. Friedman’s laboratory will explore how social factors alter neural circuit’s responses to chronic and acute stress, and influence susceptibility or resilience to neuropsychiatric disorders such as PTSD, depression and anxiety. A crucial question her laboratory addresses is how positive socialization can bring about changes in brain that that ease the symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders. Utilizing cutting-edge cell-type/circuit specific manipulations and electrophysiological recordings her team will investigate the neuronal adaptations that underlie these beneficial and protective effects. Based on this research she hopes to provide targets for mechanistically driven therapeutics.

“The long-term goal of my research is to identify precise alterations in neural circuit function that are beneficial or protective to social stress induced neuropsychiatric disorders. This work will inform the design of mechanistically driven therapies that can selectively impinge on identified neural circuit alterations.”

Key Publications: 

  1. Friedman AK, Walsh JJ, Juarez B, Ku SM, Chaudhury D, Neve RL, Wang J, Xianting L, Dietz DM, Pan N, Vialou VF, Neve RL, Yue Z and Han MH. Enhancing Depression Mechanisms in Midbrain Dopamine Neurons Achieves Homeostatic Resilience. Science. 2014
  2. Friedman AK. Jump-starting natural resilience reverses stress susceptibility. Science. 2014
  3. Walsh JJ, Friedman AK, Sun H, Heller EA, Ku SM, Juarez B, Burnham VL, Mazei-Robison M, Ferguson D, Golden SA, Koo JW, Chaudhury D, Christoffel DJ, Pomeranz L, Friedman JM, Russo SJ, Nestler EJ, and Han MH. Stress and CRF gate neural activation of BDNF in the mesolimbic reward pathway. Nature Neuroscience. 2014

Other Honors:

American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Travel Award Recipient
Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology Finalist
NARSAD Young Investigator Award
Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Fellowship

In the Media: 

To quash depression, some brain cells must push through the stress. Los Angeles Times. April 17, 2014
Triggering Resilience to Depression In mice, boosting depression-causing activity in neurons can actually reverse depressive symptoms. The Scientist. April 17, 2014