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Matthew P Unger

Assistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology

Teaching activities

Courses Currently Teaching

SOCI/ANTH 363: Law and Society

SOCI/ANTH 498: Legal Systems/Socio-Legal Theory

SOCI 650: Law and the Irrational


Estrogen, learning and memory, female cognition, dopamine

Research Overview:
The Brake lab examines how natural fluctuations in ovarian hormones across the estrus cycle in rats affect normal brain function and plasticity. There are two lines of research currently being carried out in the lab:

Natural fluctuations in ovarian hormones such as estrogen were once thought to only play a role in sexual behaviors. Now it is well established that they play a critical role in certain types of cognition as well. One example of this is the cognitive strategy used to solve a maze for a reward. When estrogen levels are lower, females tend to use a "response" strategy whereas when the levels are higher, they tend to use a "place" strategy to find a reward. These two strategies are influenced by two different areas of the brain; the dorsal striatum and the hippocampus, respectively. Research in the lab explores how estrogen affects underlying dopamine transmission to influence cognitive strategy.

Schizophrenia is a complex disease that presents differently in men and women. Women tend to have a relief of symptoms during pregnancy (when hormones are elevated), while others may develop the disease following menopause (when ovarian hormones decrease). Moreover, women respond to antipsychotic medication differently from men. This suggests a role for estrogen and other ovarian hormones in the symptomology and treatment response to schizophrenia. We are examining how estrogen influences dopamine transmission in areas linked to the disease and how antipsychotic drug effects may be influenced by estrogen.

Lab members

Current graduate students

Anne Almey (PhD Candidate)
Dema Hussain (PhD Candidate)
Waqqas Shams (PhD Candidate)
Arne Hantson (MA Student)
Czarina Evangelista (MA Student)

Current Undergraduate Students

Lauren Arenal
Joshua Oliel
Yaman Al-Qadri
Alex Tsanev
Jesse Duchemin
Lukas Henning (Exchange Honours Student from Maastricht University; Netherlands)

Graduate Student Alumni (current position)

Matt Quinlan (Prof: Cal State, San Bernadino)
Dan Madularu (Post Doc: McGill)
Nicole Gervais (Post Doc: U Mass, Amherst)

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