Samantha Pierson (Bral)

Address: 2-400 BSB
Phone: (319) 335-7769

Mentor: Catherine Marcinkiewcz, PhD

Undergraduate Institution: University of Iowa

Graduate Program: Neuroscience

Year Entered Into Program: 2019

Research Description

The interaction between chronic ethanol consumption, tau pathology progression, and cognitive impairment in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease

Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are associated with earlier onset of age-related dementias and can lead to other memory disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome. The memory impairments induced by AUDs may indicate a role of alcohol use in the acceleration of processes that lead to cognitive dysfunction. Chronic ethanol use can also affect functioning of serotonergic circuitry in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN). This circuitry has also been implicated in anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors. Depression is also an early symptom in Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The focus of my work will be examining the intersection of AUDs and AD mechanisms. Specifically, I am working on determining whether chronic alcohol exposure can exacerbate development of tau pathology in dorsal raphe serotonergic neurons in htau mice, leading to depressive-like behaviors and increased rate of tau pathology development in the DRN.


  • Predoctoral Training Grant in the Pharmacological Sciences (T32 GM067795), 2020-2022
  • Neuroscience Training Program (T32 NS007421), 2019-2020
  • Iowa Neuroscience Institute Summer Scholar, 2017