UMass Psychology

Heather Richardson

Umass Psychology People

Dr. Heather N. Richardson

Position(s): Assistant Professor
Division: Div 1 NSB
Secondary Division: Div 2 Dev
Building/Room: T 527
Extension: 545-0166
Email: hrichardson AT cns DOT umass DOT edu
Center for Research on Families
Neuroscience and Behavior Program
Neurobiology of Stress and Addiction Laboratory

The Neurobiology of Stress and Addiction Lab

Males and females show different vulnerability to stress-related disorders such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. This may be driven by sex differences in brain structure, chemistry, and circulating hormones in adulthood. Adolescence is a period of neural plasticity during which experiences or substances that modulate endocrine systems (e.g., stress, alcohol) could interfere with normal neural remodeling and alter sexually dichotomous behaviors.  Our research uses rodent models to understand the neural, hormonal, and behavioral (e.g., impulsivity, anxiety) determinants of addiction and how susceptibility to stress-related disorders may be shaped perinatally (around the time of birth) and during adolescent development.

*Application inquiries: Please email Lynn Bengston at


Selected Publications

Adolescent drinking targets corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) peptide labeled cells in the central amygdala of male and female rats.
Karanikas CA, Lu YL, Richardson HN.
Neuroscience. 2013

Lu YL and Richardson HN (in press). Alcohol, stress hormones, and the prefrontal cortex: a proposed pathway to the dark side of addiction. Neuroscience.M

McClure J, Podos J, and Richardson HN (2014).  Isolating the delay component of impulsive choice in adolescent rats. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 8:3. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2014.00003.

Karanikas CA, Lu YL, Richardson HN. (2013).  Adolescent drinking targets corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) peptide labeled cells in the central amygdala of male and female rats. Neuroscience, 249 (98-105)

*Featured on journal cover*

Gilpin NW, Karanikas CA, Richardson HN (2012) Adolescent Binge Drinking Leads to Changes in Alcohol Drinking, Anxiety, and Amygdalar Corticotropin Releasing Factor Cells in Adulthood in Male Rats. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31466. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031466 

Gilpin NW, Smith AD, Cole M, Weiss F, Koob GF, Richardson HN (2009). Operant Behavior and Alcohol Levels in Blood and Brain of Alcohol-Dependent Rats. Alcoholism:  Clinical and Experimental Research, 33:  2113-23.

Richardson HN*, Chan SH*, Crawford EF, Lee YK, Funk C, Koob GF, and Mandyam CD (2009).  Permanent impairment of birth and survival of cortical and hippocampal proliferating cells following excessive drinking during alcohol dependence. Neurobiology of Disease, 36: 1-10.   (*Authors contributed equally)

Witkiewitz K*, Holmes A*, Ray LA*, Murphy JG*, Richardson HN*, Chen YC, McDevitt-Murphy ME, Cruz MT, Roberto M (2009). Young Investigator Award symposium.  Alcohol, 43:  499-508. (*Authors contributed equally)

Mandyam CD, Crawford EF, Eisch AJ, Rivier CL, and Richardson HN (2008). Stress experienced in uteroreduces sexual dichotomies in neurogenesis, microenvironment, and cell death in the adult rat hippocampus. Developmental Neurobiology 68: 575-589

Richardson HN, Lee SY, O’Dell LE, Koob GF, and Rivier CL (2008).  Alcohol self-administration acutely stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, but alcohol dependence leads to a dampened neuroendocrine state.  European Journal of Neuroscience, 28:  1641-53.

Richardson HN, Zhao Y, Fekete ÉM, Funk CK, Wirsching P, Janda K, Zorrilla EP, and Koob GF (2008).  MPZP: a novel small molecule corticotropin-releasing factor type 1 receptor (CRF1) antagonist.  Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior 88: 497-510.

Richardson HN, Zorrilla EP,  Mandyam CD, and Rivier CL (2006).  Exposure to repetitive versus varied stress during prenatal development generates two distinct anxiogenic and neuroendocrine profiles in adulthood. Endocrinology, 147: 2506-17.

Richardson HN, Nelson ALA, Ahmed EI, Parfitt DB, Romeo RD, and Sisk CL (2004).  Female pheromones stimulate release of luteinizing hormone and testosterone without altering GnRH mRNA in adult male Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus).  General and Comparative Endocrinology, 138: 211-217.

Richardson HN, Gore AC, Venier JE, Romeo RD, and Sisk CL (2004).  Increased expression of forebrain GnRH mRNA and changes in testosterone negative feedback following pubertal maturation.  Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 214: 63-70.


Lab members     

  • Principal Investigator:  Heather N. Richardson, Ph.D.
  • Senior Research Technician:  Lynn Bengston, M.S.
  • Neuroscience and Behavior Program Graduate Students:  Yi-Ling Lu, Jesse McClure, Wanette Vargas, Guillaume Pagnier (Andrew Cohen's lab)
  • Commonwealth College Honors Undergradute Students:  Sean McDougall, Aditi Dave, Divya Harpalani, Jacqueline Dibella
  • Independent Study Undergraduate Students:  Kyle O'Donnell, Kylee Deiter
  • Undergraduate Research Assistants and other team members: Becca Adams, Laura Berglass, Sarah Brem, Kat Chang, Dimitria Gomes, Abdallah Jaara, Urusa Sheikh, Ryan Tressel, Sara Woldemariam

Lab Alumni - Where are they now?

Chrisanthi Karanikas (MS, Neuroscience and Behavior Program; Masters Thesis)
Current position: Senior Associate, Scientific Communications, Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis
Katherine Hemingway (BS, Biology, Minors in Psychology and Spanish, Commonwealth Honors Project)
Current position: Medical student, Florida Atlantic University
Craig Mehrmann (BS, Philosophy, Psychology-Neuroscience Track; Commonwealth Honors Project, *awarded a Bay State Summer Scholarship)
Current position:  Graduate student, Georgetown University, Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Program
Kristie Fierro (BA, Psychology, Commonwealth Honors Project) *awarded an Honors Research Grant
Current position:  Senior Activities Specialist, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Glen Oaks NY
Frank Jackson (BS, Psychology-Neuroscience Track; Commonwealth Honors Project, *awarded an Honors Research Grant)
Current position: Research Database Manager, Boston Children's Hospital
Danielle Rioux (BS, Biology; Commonwealth Honors Project)
Current position: Graduate student, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Kyna Long (BS, Psychology-Neuroscience Track; Independent Study)

Current position:  Graduate student, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine

Current position:  Graduate student, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
Maryam Semenov (BS, Psychology-Neuroscience Track; Independent Study)
Current position:  Graduate student, University of Southern California Pharmacy School
Marina Shirokova (BS, Psychology-Neuroscience Track; Independent study)
Current position: EMT at Life Line Ambulance Service, Inc.
Vanessa Villamarin (BS, Psychology-Neuroscience Track; Independent Study)
Current position:  Clinical Research Assistant for the National Children's Study, Pediatrics Dept, UMass Medical School


Lab News

Spring 2014

  • Dr. Heather Richardson gives an invited lecture on her research at an international conference on alcohol and stress in Volterra, Italy.


  • Congratulations to Jesse McClure - winner of the NSB Vincent Dethier Award!  This prestigous award is given annually to a doctoral student who shows the highest academic and research acheivement, and has signficantly contributed to the NSB program.
  • NSB graduate student Jesse McClure publishes a paper on adolescent impulsivity and precision in timing in Frontiers of Integrative Neuroscience.  Check the paper out here!

Fall 2013

  • NSB graduate student Yi-Ling Lu wins the best poster award at the Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium!

Fall 2013

  • NSB graduate student Yi-Ling Lu wins the best poster award at the Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium!


Summer 2013


Spring 2013


  • Dissertation Research Grant was awarded to NSB graduate student Yi-Ling Lu.
  • Dr. Heather Richardson gives a talk on binge drinking and prefrontal myelin at for the Neuroscience Program in Department of Biology at Bay Path College, Longmeadow, MA


Fall  2012 

Summer 2012


Spring 2012

  • NSB grad student Jesse McClure gives an invited lecture titlted "Neurobiology of Operant Learning" at the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Warwick RI


Fall 2011

  • NSB graduate student Jesse McClure wins the best poster award at the Life Sciences Graduate Research Symposium.


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