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Valerie J. Bolivar, Ph.D.

Valerie J. Bolivar, Ph.D.

Neurobehavioral Genetics
Assistant Professor, Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, University at Albany
Ph.D., Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Postdoctoral training: New York State Department of Health, Wadsworth Center
(518) 473-2207

Research Interests

In our behavior neurogenetics laboratory we study the role of genetics in complex behaviors. Autism is a behaviorally defined disorder with symptoms that include impairments in social interactions, cognitive inflexibility, language difficulties, and repetitive motor behaviors. Assumed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors, the precise etiology of autism remains elusive. The BTBR T+ tf/J mouse displays several autism-like behaviors and we are studying this strain in more detail to elucidate the underlying genes and brain structures. For instance, the BTBR T+ tf/J mouse displays reduced corpus callosum and hippocampal commissure size relative to other mouse strains, which we have linked to regions on Chromosomes 4 and X .

In addition to studies to identify the specific genes involved in the development of these two structures, we are currently investigating the relationship between these commissure abnormalities and the autism-like behaviors displayed in BTBR T+ tf/J mice. Over the past few decades much attention has been focused on the role of genetics in learning and memory and a number of genes have been recognized as playing pivotal roles. However, the learning and memory process is complex and influenced by many genes. In our research we investigate learning and memory and related neuroanatomical structures (e.g., mossy fibers in the hippocampus) in genetically defined mouse strains. This enables us to examine the interrelationships among genes, brain and behavior. We recently identified several chromosomal regions that are involved in specific types of learning and memory and are doing further studies to identify the genes involved.

Select Publications

Zhang YB, Bolivar VJ, Lawrence DA.
Maternal Exposure to Mercury Chloride During Pregnancy and Lactation Affects the Immunity and Social Behavior of Offspring.
Toxicological Sciences.
Meyza KZ, Defensor EB, Jensen AL, Corley MJ, Pearson BL, Pobbe RLH, Bolivar VJ, Blanchard DC, Blanchard RJ.
The BTBR T(+)tf/J mouse model for autism spectrum disorders-in search of biomarkers.
Behavioural Brain Research.
(Special Issue SI):
Pearson, B. L., Defensor, E. B., Pobbe, R. L. H., Yamamoto, L. H. L., Bolivar, V. J., Blanchard, D. C. and Blanchard, R. J.
Mecp2 Truncation in Male Mice Promotes Affiliative Social Behavior.
Behavior Genetics.
C. Fang, V. J. Bolivar, J. Gu, W. Yang, S. O. Zeitlin and X. Ding.
Neurobehavioral abnormalities in a brain-specific NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase knockout mouse model.
Bryant, C. D., Parker, C. C., Zhou, L. L., Olker, C., Chandrasekaran, R. Y., Wager, T. T., Bolivar, V. J., Loudon, A. S., Vitaterna, M. H., Turek, F. W. and Palmer, A. A.
Csnk1e Is a Genetic Regulator of Sensitivity to Psychostimulants and Opioids.
Pobbe, R. L. H., Pearson, B. L., Defensor, E. B., Bolivar, V. J., Young, W. S., Lee, H. J., Blanchard, D. C. and Blanchard, R. J.
Oxytocin receptor knockout mice display deficits in the expression of autism-related behaviors.
Hormones & Behavior.
(3 Special Issue SI):
Pearson BL, Pobbe RLH, Defensor EB, Oasey L, Bolivar VJ, Blanchard DC, Blanchard RJ.
Motor and cognitive stereotypes in the BTBR T+ tf/J mouse model of autism.
Genes Brain and Behavior.
Bolivar VJ.
Intrasession and intersession habituation in mice: From inbred strain variability to linkage analysis.
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.
Bolivar VJ, Walters SR, Phoenix JL.
Assessing autism-like behavior in mice: Variations in social interactions among inbred strains.
Behavioural Brain Research.